Thursday, July 14, 2005

Beat the Heat

agar-agar, originally uploaded by emily loke.

Its been absolutely sweltering the past couple of days here in Toronto, and it doesn’t look like its going to be cooling down any time soon. A. and I have been living life as short-distance sprinters the past few days, zipping as quickly as possible from one air-conditioned locale to the next in attempts to limit our exposure to the humidity, heat and pollution – a traveling technique I’ve noticed most other Torontonians have recently adopted as well. It seems everyone has issues with the heat.

The worst thing about the heat for me is that it means my cooking has to be shelved for a while. Though the apartment is (thankfully) air-conditioned, it's so hot outside that when I do come home all I can think about is not subjecting myself to anything that could make me even slightly warm again. Chinatown has been our saving grace the past few days, rescuing us both from having to get too close to a stove or barbeque and possibly suffering a heat stroke while attempting to make dinner. Our fridge is crammed full of white styrofoam containers: rations for the days where walking the 3 blocks to Chinatown seems far too daunting for an ex-Singaporean and an ex-Floridian. Yes, it’s that hot here.

So hot, in fact, that A. was actually turned away last night from a Chinese restaurant while trying to order takeout, the only explanation given being: “Too hot to cook. Go away.”

But I digress.

It might have been due to a bout of heat-induced psychosis, but all I could think about today was agar-agar. Chilled, pink, rose-flavoured agar-agar was one of my favourite ways to beat the heat back home in Singapore. I still remember crunching through mounds of the stuff with my mother on hot days, barely stopping to admire their intricately molded designs, our fingers and mouths stained pink from the dye. When A. called my attention to a packet of it at the store today, I needed no other incentive: we were having agar-agar for dessert tonight.

It took me a while to figure out the proper conversions from grams to tablespoons, but it was well worth the effort – the 6 cool, glistening agar-agar bunts sitting in the fridge tell me so. And that’s not the heatstroke talking.

Rose Agar-Agar

1 1/2 cups water
4 tsp rose water
1 tbs agar powder
10 tbs sugar
red food colouring, if desired

1. Throw everything into a saucepan and heat till sugar and agar dissolve, stirring.
2. Take it off the heat and stir in as much food colouring as you'd like. (I used 3 drops)
3. Pour into agar mold (I used a baby bundt pan, but anything will do.)
4. Leave out on counter to set at room temperature
5. When set, refrigerate to chill.