Dim Sum Recipe #6: Almond Jello

There are few Cantonese desserts as classic as Almond Jello.  This fragrant milk-based gelatin swimming in fruit cocktail (yes, the canned kind) is a dessert staple of the Chinese restaurant dim sum cart.  In general, Chinese cuisine places much more emphasis on savory foods than sweet foods, but this specialty has stood the test of time.

At Chinese grocery stores you can find ready-made jello mixes to make this dessert, but with ingredients so basic and results so much more delicious when homemade, why bother?

For my almond jello, I like to add a generous amount of maraschino cherries, so much so that the “very cherry” fruit cocktail blend doesn’t cut it.  I buy a separate jar just for the occasion.  These cherries make the jello look welcoming and cheery, especially since red is the favorite color of the Chinese, and considered a sign of good fortune and happiness.

If you are wanting an authentic Chinese dessert without the fuss, this is the recipe you are looking for.  After a few minutes on the stove top, some fridge time, and popping open some cans, you’ll have a beautiful refreshment, perfect for closing out any heavy Chinese meal.

Almond Jello

Serves 8.


3 Tbsp powdered gelatin

3 cups cold water

3/4 cup white sugar

2 cups whole milk

2 1/2 tsp almond extract

2 cans fruit cocktail

1- 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, rinsed until water is clear, then drained well, with stems removed then halved

6-8 maraschino cherries (reserved from jar) with stems attached for garnish

non-stick spray


large baking pan or casserole dish (9″ x 13″)

medium bowl

large pot

measuring cup


6-8 small bowls for serving


1.)  In a medium bowl, bloom the gelatin in 2 cups of cold water.  Set aside.  Lightly spray baking pan with non-stick spray.

2.)  Place large pot on stove top and set on med-high.  Add last cup of water to the pot and let come up to heat just under the boiling point.

3.)  Just before the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to low-med and stir in the bloomed gelatin.  Add milk and sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved.  Turn off heat and add almond extract.

4.)  Pour mixture into baking pan and let sit in fridge to chill for 3-4 hours.

5.)  When jello is set, cut into 1″ cubes by running knife through the jello in a grid-like pattern.  Distribute jello cubes in 6-8 medium bowls, then spoon a few generous tablespoons of fruit cocktail (with syrup) atop the jello.  Scatter halved maraschino cherries atop the fruited jello.  Garnish each bowl of jello with a stemmed cherry and serve!

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers

Lychee Vodka Tea Jellies

Green tea jello is one of my favorite summertime treats, but it’s so cold now, jello isn’t the first dessert that comes to mind.

There is a certain ingredient that makes jello fantastically winter-appropriate though…vodka!  Just in time for New Year’s, these lychee flavored tea jello shots will get you warmed up and ready to party in no time.

My secret ingredient here?  Lychee gummies–a distinctive and unexpectedly gourmet treat.  Although lychees are a fruit originating from Southern China, a Japanese candy company has made gummy candies out of them, packed with pure lychee flavor.  These candies are just the thing to tame the liquor taste in these cubes while also adding a surprising chewy bite in the center of the jelly.  Ginger liquor from Domaine de Canton (such a gorgeous bottle!) and syrup from a can of lychees gives a final boost of Asian fruitiness.

If you are in California like I am, you can get the lychees and lychee gummies at Cost Plus World Market and the ginger liquor from BevMo.  And if you can’t find the ginger liquor, no biggie, just replace it with extra vodka.

I’ve also used a pre-steeped green tea from Ito-En here because it’s always brewed perfectly and so easy to use.  I figure that if I’m going through all the effort of making jello shots, I’m entitled to take a shortcut!

This recipe will take you less than 10 minutes to mix together.  An important tip is not to stir and agitate the gelatin too much when mixing, as this results in lots of little bubbles forming on the surface, making a less clear gelatin.  The best thing to do is to use a simple spoon to mix the gelatin using a slight swirl motion to get the liquids evenly mixed.

I actually like my jello on the less-wobbly side, so I’m generous with the gelatin here.  Another good thing about adding more gelatin is that you can set these jello shots out earlier without worrying that they will become mushy or start falling apart–important if you are setting up for a large party and want to get things done and checked off your to-do list.

If you have any extra gelatin mixture, fill glass bowls with it and top with the remaining canned lychees and spoonfuls of left-over heavy syrup…your shots will have miraculously transformed into a light and lovely dessert!

As the holiday season comes to a close, I hope you’ll give these effortless Lychee Vodka Tea Jellies a try.  These gently spiked squares are elegant, simple, and unique, bringing the best of summer tastes into the midst of your wintertime festivities.  They’ll give you just the right edge to comfortably settle into to 2014.  And with that, I wish all you tea lovers out there a joyful, safe, and prosperous New Year’s!!!

Lychee Vodka Tea Jellies

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of gelatin.


1 can of lychees in heavy syrup

1 cup green tea (I used bottled Ito-En)

50 ml vodka

25 ml ginger liquor ( I used Domain de Canton, and if you can’t get this just replace with more vodka!)

3 Tbsp gelatin

1-2 packages of lychee gummy candies (depending on how many molds you are filling)

2 Tbsp grenadine or maraschino cherry syrup

sugar sprinkles, fresh mint, or Japanese bento grass to decorate


jello molds (I used Wilton’s Bite-Size Brownie Mold but metal molds, muffin tins, or bowls also work well)


1.)  Measure out 1 cup of lychee heavy syrup into a medium bowl, then sprinkle gelatin on top and stir in to bloom the gelatin.

2.)  Make or heat green tea until it is hot and steaming, then pour into bloomed gelatin.  Mix gently and evenly, trying to avoid excessive bubbles from forming.

3.)  Mix in both liquors and grenadine, then again mix gently and evenly.

4.)  Pour into gelatin molds until molds are 3/4 full.  Place one lychee gummy into each mold.  If you have larger molds, you can place a lychee into the mold or bowl instead of the gummy candy.  After all the molds are filled, place in fridge until completely set.

5.)  Allow jello to set completely before unmolding.  If jello does not come out readily, submerge base in hot water to release, then unmold.  Decorate with sugar sprinkles, mint, or bento grass.

And if you like these tea jellies you’ll probably also like my recipe for Lychee Granita, a tea snack I made over the summer.  This isn’t a wintertime recipe, but still a delicious one to keep for the summer of 2014!