Last week I took a course to study the various gelling agents that are used for wagashi. Each one is different in many ways so we have to choose the one that is just right for the wagashi we are making.
The main gelling agent in wagashi is Kanten (a type of agar made from Tengusa, a type of red algae). In class we learned differences in the various forms of Kanten. The main difference between Kanten and Gelatin besides the fact that one is plant derived and the other is from animals is that Kanten solidifies at room temperature and only melts at around 70C . So when you eat it, it doesn't melt in your mouth like gelatin, so you may feel the texture is much firmer.
One of the most popular sweets made from Kanten is anmitsu, a dessert made with cubes of Kanten served with red beans or fruit. We made the anmitsu using Kanten powder, Ito-Kanten (string-type agar) and Agar, which is much softer and impossible to make a cube.
Another sweet we made was Kingyokukan which is a popular summer wagashi made with Kanten and sugar. I hope to introduce some summer wagashi using kanten this year.
I'm Miyuki and I teach Japanese Home cooking at my home in Tokyo.