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Aiyu jelly, known as 愛玉冰 commonly, or 文头雪 in Singapore or 文頭郎 in Hong Kong, is a popular summer dessert from Taiwan. The jelly itself has a very light sweet taste and is served with a variety of different toppings, ranging from honey, freshly squeezed lime juice, fruits (I especially love longan), or even sweet potato balls or taro balls.
This jelly dessert is made from the natural pectin from the seeds of the awkeotsang creeping fig, typically found in Taiwan and other East Asian countries of the same climates and latitudes. You might find aiyu powder available in some stores, you can definitely use the powder to prepare the dessert, however it may contain some other additives or preservatives.
What is the key ingredient in Aiyu Jelly
Aiyu jelly looks like very watery jelly or agar agar and it can easily be mistaken as these. In actual fact, aiyu jelly is made by rubbing the dried seeds of awkeotsang creeping fig (a variation of ficus pumila) in mineral or tap water. During this process, which is called ‘washing the aiyu’ or 洗愛玉, the natural pectin from the dried seeds are released into the water and quickly forms a gel. The pectin is found on the outer layer of the seeds, not the inside, thus the washing of the seeds instead of grinding and crushing them to extract the pectin.
There is no need to add any sugar or sweetener as the aiyu is naturally sweet. Distilled water must not be used as the gelling process needs the minerals in the water to take place. Once it turns into jelly, the jello texture will only last for one to two days before water slowly separates out of the jelly and turns the aiyu back to liquid state.
Apparently, this type of plant is uniquely grown in Taiwan only, the fig bees that pollinate the flowers for reproduction are only found and reproduce in Taiwan. According to traditional Chinese medicine, pure pectin from aiyu can help to resist the aging process, improves skin conditions and nurtures the throat and even helps in reducing cholesterol levels.
But why the name ‘Aiyu’? It’s actually a really lovely Chinese name which literally means love jade. It’s been said that this is named after the daughter of a Taiwanese tea businessman in the 1800s. This business name discover the gel property of the plant while drinking from a creek in Chiayi. He then brought some of the fruits home and enjoyed the dessert with honey and lemon juice with his family. Being business-minded, he thought this will make a popular dessert and he could start a business out of this. The fruits can be grown and this natural resource will mean he save on the cost of sales. He entrusted his teenager daughter, whose name is Aiyu, to start and run the business. The dessert became very popular but it doesn’t come with a proper name. He then named the dessert after his daughter.
Watch how to make Aiyu Jelly on YouTube
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Aiyu Jelly 爱玉冰 Taiwanese Summer Dessert
- Place 20 g aiyu seeds into a clean mesh bag. Tie a tight knot around the bag to avoid the aiyu seeds leaking out during the 'washing'.Note: when you purchase the aiyu seeds, the mesh bag may come with the packaging.20 g aiyu seeds
- In a large bowl, add 1.3 litre tap water or mineral water. Gently rub the bag of aiyu seeds in the water. This process helps release the natural pectin from the aiyu seeds. The water will turn yellowish gradually. It takes about 5 minutes until the seeds no longer feel slimy. Discard the bag of seeds.Note: it's important to make sure there are no grease in the bowl. Otherwise the jelly will not form.1.3 litre tap water or mineral water
- Chill the bowl of aiyu mixture in the fridge for about 2 hours until the jelly is set and nicely chilled.
- Open 1 can canned longan, drain off the sugar syrup and chill the longans in the fridge.1 can canned longan
- Cut some 2-3 limes.2-3 limes
- Assemble the dessert by scooping a few spoonful of the aiyu jelly into a bowl. Drizzle as much of the 1-2 tbsp Manuka honey over it, add as much longan as you like. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over it. Add some lime slices as decoration (optional).Enjoy it cold. Best served within 1 day.1-2 tbsp Manuka honey