Sunday, February 10, 2008

China Grass/Agar-Agar Pudding With Praline Topping

Background of the story: A newly married couple commences their much dreamed about life together in Chennai. Bride’s cooking experience starts with two cups of tea and ends with an omelet. With some simple recipes scribbled in a 100 page notebook and lots of beginner‘s luck in the kitchen, she succeeds in whipping up some everyday recipes. Everything is rosy and pink.
Location: A small town in Kerala
Scene: The young couple comes down to Kerala, after celebrating one month anniversary of a beautiful marriage, to visit girl’s parents and during their short stay there, they get an invite for dinner and stay-over at girl’s aunt’s place. Since our girl being the eldest in her maternal family, her aunt prepares a grand feast to receive the bridegroom, starting from drinks and pre-appetizers and a full course menu for the dinner. ….everyone in a happy mood, lots of laughter and teasing going around…….and when everybody is relaxing after a heavy dinner, our aunt enters the scene with a tray of pudding, tempting everyone with its eye candy look…..everyone starts relishing this sweet delicacy and suddenly our hero, bridegroom drops the bomb and asks the girl, “hey…I loved this dessert….absolutely tasty….why don’t you ask your aunt for the recipe?”” Girl, though shell-shocked at this unexpected move from her husband, tries to hide her nervousness and nods her head in agreement and goes to bed with a wishful thinking that husband might forget the whole thing and she can return to her routine cooking after reaching Chennai. The next day morning, while bidding farewell to the relatives, boy asks the girl again, “So, did you get the recipe?” and the girl halfheartedly says, “aunty will mail me by post….” !!

Location: Chennai
Scene: Newly married couple returns to Chennai and after a week or two, our girl receives a letter from her aunt, with neatly written guidelines for the pudding and seeing her husband’s excitements, she decides to give it a try. So, one day after getting back home from work, she rolls ups the sleeves and knots the apron and starts the work.

STD call after 10 minutes :
Girl: Aunty, this thing is not thickening, how long should I stir this?
Aunt: hmm….only for 4-5 mts after adding the condensed milk.

Telecon ends…. Second STD call after 10 mts:
Girl: …..sugar has melted now…it is golden colour now, shall I add the nuts?
Aunty:….burn the sugar till it is golden brown and then you add the nuts.

Telecon ends….. Third STD call after 10 mts:
Girl: Caramelized nuts are stuck …I am not able to scrape it off
Aunt: Where did you pour it?
Girs : On a newspaper
Aunt: : Eh!!!!! You should have used butter paper…anyway try to scrape off after breaking them into small chunks

Telecon Ends….. Fourth STD call after 30 mts and uncle picks up the phone:
Uncle: Aahhh…….Heard you re making the is it done?
Girl: mm…I guess this is my first and last time with that pudding….aunty is there?
Aunt: Is it ready now?
Girl: I am not able to spread the jam …jam is quite thick
Aunt: oh…slightly smash the jam with the back of a spoon and then spread….
Girl: Why didn’t you tell me earlier that it takes lots of time…? I am done with this and if it doesn’t turn out well, I am throwing it out!!
Aunt: It is such a simple and easy recipe…..I don’t understand why you re having so much trouble!

Girl, quite bugged and impatient at this stage, keeps the phone down, finishes the topping and throws the whole tray into the fridge and wraps up the kitchen. When husband returns from work, they have their dinner together, exchanging the day’s happenings and after some time, girl serves ‘the pudding”. Husband takes the first scoop …..tension builds up…..he smiles and takes another spoonful and tells,” WOW! I am glad you tried this… we will make this often…wont you?”. The moment that made the whole thing worth and gratifying at the same time!! :)


And I should say, aunt was right then, this is an easy and simple dessert that you can whip up in less than 20-30 minutes, especially if a beginner has clear instructions and I realized that after all these years and it is surprising that this China-grass/Agar-Agar pudding is still one of the toppers in CJJ’s favourite list. China Grass, also known as Agar-Agar is a seaweed derivative and a ‘vegetable gelatin’. Because of its gelatinous nature, it is used as a quick setting base for many desserts and it is flavorless in nature and will get set in room temperature as well. The base pudding in this recipe is quite versatile with any other flavorings as well as topping too. Using canned pineapple chunks or any other fruits in sugar syrup is also a great idea to whip up this easy yet tasty pudding in less than 20 minutes. China Grass is available in Asian stores in US.The right consistency for this pudding is when the base pudding holds together, something like the Jello and at the same time, it is not too thick or hard.

For the base:
  • ½ litre milk (around 2 1/8 cups)
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp china grass powder or (Approx.)10gms china grass strands*
For the topping:
  • 3 tbsp jam of your choice
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cashew nuts or almonds
  • Prepare the base of the pudding by boiling milk in a saucepan and when it comes to boil, reduce the heat and add sugar and china grass powder; keep stirring continuously, until everything is dissolved well. Now, add sweetened condensed milk, in low flame and stir continuously for 3-4 minutes and switch off the stove. Using a strainer, pour this mixture to an 8 inch pan and let it set in the room temperature, till it is cold and then chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. (Note: If you are using china grass strands soak them in hot water or prepare it as per the package instructions)
  • Prepare the praline topping by heating and melting sugar until they turn medium brown. Keep swirling the pan but do not stir. When sugar is completely melted and bubbles start coming up, turn off the stove and add the dry toasted nuts to it, and pour them onto to a non-stick aluminum foil or a lightly oil coated aluminum foil sheet, placed on a cookie sheet and let it set. When completely dry, crush the caramel coated nut sheet using a rolling pin and then powder them in a food processor or in the smallest jar of a mixer/blender. (Note: Hot caramel can create serious burns, so make sure that you play safe and kids are not around while preparing it. While pouring the caramel coated nuts, make sure that a thick layer is not created.)
  • Once the base is set, take it out of the refrigerator and spread thoroughly mashed jam on top of the base and sprinkle powdered praline and chill it for another 30-40 minutes. Slice and serve.
This goes to Pooja’s Valentines Day Special Event and Zorra's "Heart for your Valentine"

Check out other Valentinyyy treats from this blog by clicking on the image to view the recipe.

Groom Berries and Bride BerriesMango SorbetOrange DelightBlack Forest CakeShortbread HeartsWhite CakePraline CakeMexican wedding cookiesTiramisu

UPDATED on 13th Feb* : There was a typo in the measurement of China grass when I first posted the recipe, I have corrected it now. Sorry for the mistake! I have noticed that there is lots of variation in the measurement of china grass we get back home in India and here in US. The measurements I have given above is as per the products we get here in US. Just like the quality of dry yeast differs in India and US, the quality and strength of china grass also differ. So the safest method is to first try diluting it in warm water and see if you re getting the right pudding consistency and then make variations while working with milk.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. lovely! my mom used to make something similar when i was a kid. the taste of burnt sugar is out of this world!

  2. Shn...the pudding looks yummy!!!
    & It was fun reading another write up abt ur early cooking days :P

  3. wow !! Looks like caramel pudding. looks so yummy.So from that early hesitant cook to this present day marvelous cook....what a change!

  4. lol, cute story, it took me a few years before I even attempted a dessert...
    The pudding looks soo pretty!

  5. Couldn't help sniggering at the newspaper bit....Loely heart pudding..adore the tiny cutie beside the larger one....

    good read!

  6. Shn, loved the write up and Pudding looks hearty!! I was LOL reading it(my hub used to announce amidst friends, do u know to make this, i liked it..take the my embarassment!!first yr of marriage that is! n the cake goes to -- visualise this--we are in a crowded indian store, hub stops at frozen fish section, i move on, now there are 6-7 strangers bet. us, he yells frm there, shall i take fish, I shake my head saying no, next line comes..."do u know how to make it??" ghoshhhh!now we remember this incident and have a hearty laugh!) i m somewhat in between wrt cooking now! used to have a phobia for cooking a decade ago!! i have long way go to excel! Tks for sharing , thks for the tips too, shall surely try it out!(n a quick sorry for elaborate comment read story! :D )

  7. Shn, China Grass is one of my favourite childhood desserts - my gran used to make this with milk and a bit of cardamom and saffron - I've never tried it with praline. I love the texture of China Grass puddings!

  8. Hey Shn, another hit recipe to go....this is perfect for Vals day - dont think anything could beat this.

    Hugs n a great Valentines to you.

  9. k loves china grass...and i am quite sick of making it the plain way...will try this... it looks fabulous and yes well worth the effort of all those panic stricken phone calls!!

    it makes for great memories though...and i loved reading the story!!

  10. hey dear chech...The pudding looks soooo awesome...yummy!!!

  11. super..looks awesome..i have to find someone who will make something like that for me!!I would be graceful to eat that in a jiffy!!;-P

    my all time fav desert is creme brule..and this one looks awesome too..

  12. hahaha Shn , that was such a well narrated story ...i'm sure ur STD bill ran high that month. I think these are the greatest memories. The feeling of when u learn of something new and have a tough time figuring it out. The pudding looks to die for and are'nt we all glad u learnt that frm your aunty.

  13. great ! ..i am the 1st to comment..dunno if u remember me ,tho i am unable to blog now i still visit some of my fav blogs on & off urs being one of them..i had tried ur praline cake on my husband's b'day ..came out quite well.this pudding looks 'simbly' amazing ...will definitely make it soon ..!the story was superb too..

  14. Hello, will you be my Valentine? ;D
    Gorgeous dessert. I use Gelatine, it's not as good as Agar Agar. Great story. You know, I had never cooked before marriage and suddenly I started cooking for bunch people and did it well too. Never called mom to ask for anything but with the help of cookbooks! Strange but true!
    You can send this Zorra(heart) and Bindiya (Chinese food)too. Beautiful photo shn, have a great Monday!:)

  15. Thats sooo beautiful Shn. I loved the writeup :). Never tried my hand at china grass, will do it sometime. Happy Valentine's day dear.

  16. These look so pretty and I loved the tiny heart Shn... :) I've been looking for Agar Agar in the asian grocery store but no luck. The praline topping definitely gets my attention and your story is so adorable.

  17. Loved the story.
    I am sure you were glad you made the dessert years back.
    And great way to celebrate the valentine with the dessert you made first

  18. Loved the story more than the recipe. :) I am an agar-agar fan too. Haven't tried a caramel topping on it yet. Looks great, and sounds yum!

  19. That's such a pretty looking dessert...I make something caramelised at your memories :-)

  20. Shn
    such a cute story. It brought me memories of calls to my mom when I started cooking post marriage. The pudding looks wonderful :o) will be trying it out

  21. wow looks so nice....reminds me of caramel pudding....will try it sometime ....

  22. that was an interesting story .. your pudding looks great too....eppazhaa varande?

  23. Beautiful pudding, Shn. The colour, texture and shape,hmm... pure delight.

  24. Lovely pudding! When I opened my pantry last night I sighed looking at the china grass packs my mil got me. I am glad I have a tried and tested and accepted recipe to use it in :)

  25. Shn,
    thats loving story , you are right , all the tiredness and worried disappears when one likes the dish we make . nothing as pleasant as that feeling :) .
    thanks for such a lovely entry and a wonderful memories you shared with us here. I will try this dish , if i succeed to get china grass , since childhood i loved this jelly like dessert too much. now got the recipe too :), thanks to your aunt too :D.
    Thanks again for a wonderful entry, last year when you participated in the same theme , i got to know your blog since then i admire the way you present each dish here.
    Still when i think of you the picture of Berry grooms and berry brides comes to my mind :)

  26. Cute story! First time cooking experiments - most of us go through it...Lovely Pudding, loved the tiny hearts on the side & the colour.. Lovely presentation!

  27. So gorgeous! I love your story, too, Shn. Brings back memories of myself when starting out! *laugh* You can send me some pudding anytime. I'm sure my husband would love this one. :)

  28. pudding and the story both are lovely. i make a coconut pudding using china grass but never tried with praline topping.will try this one sometime.

  29. Hehe, sweet story Shn, the pudding looks georgeous! Perfect for V-day:)

  30. Shn, this post and the pudding are CUTE :). Such a lovable combo with praline topping!

  31. Beautiful heart! :D
    Have seen some dishes using china grass back home. Have to try out some..:)

  32. wow!!!!! the pudding looks perfect! and you have a lovely collection of desserts... Each one of them is mouth watering!

  33. A pudding to my taste!

    Thank you for yor partcipation.

  34. Cute story n a yummy pudding Shn..i'm really a hardcore fan of u'rs...always admire the way u describe how to cook u'r recipes leaving us without a pint of doubt...

  35. Great Valentine day dessert.
    Your story reminds me of the first time I made filter coffee after getting married (I am a tea drinker)!

  36. wow...not just the pudding the story to go with it just kept you glued to the page..hope could try this ..swapna

  37. hi !! the dessert looks yummy.i am anew blogger...have been blog hopping and i find your blog wonderful.all the dishes featured have beautiful garnishings and you have good aesthetic sense.cudn't help commenting on it.:))

  38. nice post enjoyed while reading and yummy dessert too

  39. Wow, that sounds wonderful! And the presentation is just too cute!

  40. Looks lovely.....and I love the story ...all of us have had such experiences early on in our married days, I suppose.....

  41. Hey...I could relate very well to the scenario...
    hmm...a pack of agar agar was resting 'restlessly'for the last six months in my pantry,without knowing its fate & now in a very delighted mood hoping to be a part of dessert for my valentine...:P
    A nice write up as always !Shall give the final verdict tomorrow,o.k.....:)))

  42. another valentinyyyy treat mishy? lol @ ur story. i guess most time our poor mom's have to cope with all long distant calls at odd hours and here u have not spared ur aunty too;)
    i liked the recipe a lot and it sounds like even i can try my hand whipping these:) thanks mishy. happy v-day to u and CJJ.

  43. this is really a sweet valentine treat :-)!! my mom used to use a lot of agar agar in her sweet stuffs when i was a kid!!

  44. lol!!had lots of china grass puddings but the heart shaped mould makes it look so inviting!happy valentines to u and c.

  45. I'm beginning to attempt desserts and baking breads, both very scary projects for me, just recently. And as you said, they are quite simple, not very easy though. But am enjoying it. Very Well-Written :-)

  46. that looks so pretty SHN! and I loved the story too:)

  47. your pudding looks so yummy!!!!!!!!!where can i buy the china grass from??????will i get it in any of the american stores???????also is there any particular brand for it?????

  48. Awww, I loved when he said, "WOW!" These are so pretty, Shn, and so much more unique than chocolates. Hope you and your sweetheart had a lovely day.

  49. The pudding looks fantastic. By the way, congratulations- the blog is great, I can see myslef visiting here very often. I am Polish married to Indian we live in Portugal, and my maiden name is Rama:))That must have been the sign.
    I will try to buy agar-agar, as we have lots of asian shops here, which suits me perfectly because I love indian food- eating part as much as the cooking part too.
    All the best. Agata

  50. wow!!!This is awesome one .that heart shape is fantastic ..esp the small one ....You rock lady ....Belated Wishes!!!

  51. Hi Shn,
    I was reading your post and my 8 yr old came up from behind and one look at your pudding brought out a "wow" from him. I don't think he'll let me rest till i make it. But agar agar and i don't get along too well. I always add too much. Anyway i make it, my son will surely compare it with your picture !! Your post brings out memories of first time cooking in me too but the end result was not a satisfied hubby always !! Love your site, the pictures, the posts.Gr8 work.

  52. HI Shn

    A lovely post..A beautiful story to read as well and great pictures !! Hope you had a great valentines day!!
    Can I use gellatine instead of agar agar..will it affect the taste?


  53. Nags, I guess you re referring to caramel pudding here which is really out of the world as you said....will feature that recipe soon :)

    Surya, thank you :) How ve you been..?

    Pravs, I would say from that zero skill amateur to an everyday cook :) the taste is slightly different from caramel pudding for this one....this one is more simpler than that :)

    Sig, I was a bit know, I tried my hands at making Pathiri on the 3rd day I started cooking...thats over ambitiousness right ?:)

    Rachel, hmm...I was embarrassed to write it down but that was the best of finally added it...:P

    Purnima, I would love to read such stories in the comment section...thats what makes the whole thing interactive....else it gets boring, isnt it..? :) Hope your hubby is quite proud of you.M main motivation is CJJ, if he was not a foodie, I probably would not have tried out all these things :) Thanks again for a long comment :)

    Sra, oh really..? yeah cardamom, vanilla, saffron all can be added to flavour it and topping can be a personal choice too....basically a versatile medium to work with, I guess :)

    Shella, Thanks so much...hope you had a great V-Day :)

    Arundati Rao, thanks a lot :) As I wrote you can use various flavours to the china grass and play with toppings wont get bored cooking and eating the same dessert again n again :)

    Sijo,heyy...was surprised to find you here...:)) Was planning to mail you ever since I saw your comment, will sure send a mail soon...take care :)

    Mathew, someone with your skill level should not wait for someone to make this for you..instead you should cook and surprise someone with this :) ohh creme brule is heavenly..I like our old fashioned caramel pudding too...

    Kajal, oh bills sky rocketed in the first few months and by then we came over here and till then it has been voice chats...saves some money now :)

    Deena, Oh..yes I remember you quite re you..? Happy to know about the praline cake what did you make for V-Day?

    Asha, :))) You are a born cook, unlike me :) Even now I dont have a single cookbook...though I love to browse though them :D Thanks for pointing those event to me...I did send mine on time...thanks a lot :)

    Shilpa, you will find that its very easy to work with and quicker to make a dessert :) From your post, I understood that you had a great V-Day :)

    Laavanya, check their dessert has various better to talk to the store assistant....still if you re not able to find, let me know , I will send few sachets for you.

    Happy Cook, thanks a lot :) you look totally different in this new profile photo :)

    RP, Sunita, Anuzi, Rashmi, Nanditha, Suganya thanks friends :)

    Shweta,Hope you try...let me know your feedback too..:)

    Pooja, ohh you re so sweet :) I prefer my berry grooms and brides over this one :)

    Seema, Kalai, Sandhya, Namratha, Musical, Seena, Ramya,Zorra, Thanks a lot for such lovely comments and appreciations

    Zareena, glad to hear from you.....and thank you for such sweet words of appreciation :)

    Aparna, making filter coffee is a real skill....and i have never made one :P

    Swapna, I am so happy to hear that.....:)

    Saswati, I enjoyed you blog too...was a whole new experience going through those Russian dishes :)

    Sagari, Cakespy, jayashree, Thanks a ton :)

    Liz, hey how did the celebs go..? tell me....I am waiting to listen to your stories :)

    Sia, what do you mean by even you can try this dessert....?? pls dont underestimate yourself, have a great fan club out there :) try and let me know.

    Dhanggit, Mallugirl, mona, uma, Mansi, thanks girls.....hope you all surprised your valentines with your beautiful creations :)

    MS, I get my china grass from Asian stores, sometime our Indian store carries china grass strands too but I have never found them in American stores....I dont remember the brand, sorry...!

    Liska, welcome here :)

    Susan, thank you dear :)

    Agata, what a sweet story :) I checked out your blog but had language just relished through the pics and left the page....:D Thanks a lot for your feedbacks :)

    Deepa, thanks dear.. :)

    Farah, I take it as the cutest compliment I ever received :) Hugs to your son :) Yeah, getting the right measurement for agar agar is a bit challenging task....but once you figure out that its too easy, isnt it? :) Thanks a lot for such sweet notes :)

    Swati, you can use gelatin as well as agar agar serves the same purpose....but personally i prefer using this one....I think it is more of a personal choice...:)


  54. oh shn, this looks so lovely, i love pudding :)

  55. Just bought my first strands and flakes of agar-agar, but have yet to play with them. These hearts are adorable, is your tale of early married life. Very typical. Most men haven't a clue how much work goes into running a kitchen. I'm convinced that's why they love the holidays so much. ; )

  56. Shn..I have been dng gud. Just a lil bz at work these days. Thnks for asking.
    Hope u & cjj are dng gr8 too..

  57. ur pudding recipe was sooo easy..and tasty too..thanx a lot.


  58. yummy!!!!

    its been long i was seeing at the pudding atlast tried it on guest yesterday.
    pudding came well but it was very sweet .
    do u normally add sugar n condensed milk in the same quantity..???

  59. hi Shn
    I cannot resist visiting your site almost your posts...waiting for more.

  60. Hi ,
    What is china grass? I'm new to this technique.please help me.


  61. is tempting ever since I saw it I am in an urgent attempt to try it out but China grass seems to elude me... I can't find it in stores near me in Kaushmabi, Delhi...
    Can anyone suggest where I can buy China Grass powder....

    By the way excellent blog dear

  62. Wow, looks stunning! I make a pudding with china grass that is flavoured with rose water, and I use beetroot powder to make it pink. It's very beautiful and easy to make. You can see pictures on my blog:

  63. The dessert tasted very delicious, a novel idea especially the praline topping

  64. Hey

    This looks so delicious! I want to try it asap! I just want to know whether china grass powder is the same as falooda powder. Thanks in advance for your response.


  65. Hi
    I tried this one today, it was fantastic.
    thanks for the recipe

  66. First time in your blog.. cudnt stop grinning reading your post.. my cooking experience was almost the same story :D .. you have a wide range of tempting dishes it..

  67. looks yumm !!! happy cooking...
    do check out my food blog :

  68. Hi,
    Even though i use to make the base-pudding, and topped with praline, i never tried thej am coating.It turn out a superb and my kid and wife is addcited on new version.Thanks for sharing,
    By the your way of narration is also commentable


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