|Place of origin:|
|Fig seed gel|
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Aiyu jelly (愛玉冰; pinyin: àiyù bīng; or 愛玉凍, pinyin: àiyù dòng; or simply 愛玉, pinyin: àiyù; Min Nan: Pe̍h-ōe-jī: ò-giô, from Spanish higo), known as ice jelly in Singapore (文頭雪; pinyin: wéntóu xǔe), is a jelly made from the gel from the seeds of a variety of fig (Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang) found in Taiwan and East Asian countries of the same climates and latitudes. The jelly is not commonly made or found outside of Taiwan and Singapore, though it can be bought fresh in specialty stores in Japan and canned in Chinatowns. It is known as ò-giô in Taiwanese and is used in Taiwanese cuisine.
According to oral history, the plant and the jelly were named after the daughter of a Taiwanese tea businessman in the 1800s. The jelling property of the seeds was discovered by the businessman as he drank from a river in Chiayi. He found a clear yellowish jelly in the water he was drinking and was refreshed upon trying it. Looking above the river he noticed fruits on hanging vines. The fruits contained seeds that exuded a sticky gel when rubbed.
Upon this discovery, he gathered some of the fruits and served them at home with honeyed lemon juice or sweetened beverages. Finding the jelly-containing beverage delicious and thirst-quenching, the enterprising businessman delegated the task of selling it to his beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Aiyu. The snack was very well received and became highly popular. So, the businessman eventually named the jelly and the vines after his daughter.
Fruits of the plant resemble large fig fruits the size of small mangos and are harvested from September through January just before the fruit ripens to a dark purple. The fruits are then halved and turned inside out to dry over the course of several days. The dry fruits can be sold as is, or dried aiyu seeds (愛玉子, pinyin: aiyu zi) can then be pulled off the skin and sold separately.
The aiyu seeds are placed in a cotton cloth bag, and the bag and its contents are submerged in cold water and rubbed. A slimy gel will be extracted from the bag of aiyu seeds as it is squeezed and massaged. This is known as "washing aiyu" in Chinese (洗愛玉). After several minutes of massaging and washing, no more of the yellowish tea-coloured gel will be extracted, and the contents of the bag are discarded. The washed gel is then allowed to set into a jelly either in a cool location or in the refrigerator. One must keep in mind certain things when making aiyu jelly or else the gel may not set:
- There must not be any grease in the container or water used to wash or set the gel,
- Sugar must not be added to the aiyu prior to the setting of the gel,
- Distilled water must not be used since the gelling depends on the presence of minerals in the water,
- During washing, the seeds must not be rubbed so hard as to rupture their shells.
The jelly is usually served with honey and lemon juice but can also be included in other sweetened beverages or shaved ice and is particularly popular as a cool drink in hot summers. Since the gel does not dissolve in hot water, aiyu is sometimes used as an ingredient in hot pot.
- Video of a family making Aiyu jelly
- The harvest of the fruit its processing and its nutritional content
- Precise making of the jelly