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A basket for sweets

Three friends came for tea the other morning. Even at 10:30 the July heat was intense. My task in the tearoom was to create a feeling of coolness. Baskets are a wonderful way to do this.


I made the green sweets I called ‘Jewels of Moss’ which gives an  image of a shady cool spot by a stream with soft green moss growing over stones. The little sweets to the right are called Kampeto, pressed sugar clusters.

This is a Japanese made basket. I don’t know the name of the maker. It’s modern and I found it at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in NYC. My guests loved it.

The sweets are easy to make. The ingredients are simple. Don’t be shocked by the amount of sugar.

11-13 g Kanten (agar agar)

1 3/4 C water

2 Cups sugar

flavor or color

1 – Kanten or “agar agar” is a type of seaweed sold in bars. Soak the Kanten in the water for about an hour.

2 – Bring the water and kanten mixture to a boil, then reduce to a very low flame and allow the mixture to simmer until all of the kanten has dissolved (around 15 minutes). It is important to keep the lid on the pot so as not to loose much moisture, but keep it ajar to insure the liquid does not boil over.

3 – Strain the kanten mixture through a sieve, into the sugar which you would have prepared in another pot.

4 – Cook on low to medium flame, watching carefully. Do not let this boil over. After about 15 minutes, small bubbles will form around the edges. Eventually, the mixture will become more viscous. It is the right consistency when little threads form between the fingers when you pinch a little of the hot mixture.  If these threads break it is not done yet.

5 – Here is the point where you could add a little food coloring and flavoring. You can experiment with different flavors or fruit syrups. It is important to note that fruit juices will not work as the acid in the fruit causes the kanten to lose its ability to congeal.  Liquors and wines (like plum wine) can also add a nice flavor, but the drying time will be longer.

6 – Pour into a pan or an empty, clean milk or juice carton. While the kanten is cooling take a piece of paper and skim off any bubbles that appear.

7- After one day or even a few hours the kanten will have set. Remove the jellied brick. If using the milk carton just tear it off.


This is a Japanese pan with removable insert. I slid a knife around the outside of the Kanten to remove.


Cut the Kanten into strips, then cut again into little crystals.


Put the cut crystals on parchment paper and loosely cover with a paper towel. Keep covered for two to three days. Turn the sweets every so often so that all sides get exposed to air. After a few days (depending on the humidity) the outside will get a sugary crunch coating.

After completely dry, you can store these sweets in a tin for up to 2-4 weeks.

In case you don’t want to make them, here’s a place that makes these sweets which they call Sea Glass. They look beautiful. Yume Asian Confections


Things of elegant beauty

If Sei Shonagon (12th c.) had access to Google,YouTube or Vimeo her lists would have been much longer.

Listed under “Things of elegant beauty” she has these five entries:

-A slim, handsome young gentleman of noble birth wearing court dress
-A bound book of fine paper
-Long stems of sweet flag
-A charming cat with a white tag on her red collar
-A three layer fan

Here’s my addition to her list – 21st c. thanks to Vimeo.

– Moon mirrors mind

Watch this real time video of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. People had gathered up there this night to get the best view possible of the moon rising.

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