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Lychee + champagne + konnyaku jelly = Champagne lychee jelly! Use vegan champagne (or sparkling wine) to make these decadent, delicious, naturally vegan, Asian fruit jelly desserts.
A dear friend from London sent me a bottle of Pierre Gimonnet champagne for Christmas so I decided to be decadent and made some lychee konnyaku jellies. Lychees and champagne are a perfect marriage, in my opinion- yum! Sort of reminds me of a lychee martini, except that we're using champagne instead of vodka so, lychee bellini jelly, anybody? (For a lychee bellini cocktail recipe, visit Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites!) These champagne lychee jellies also a great way to use up leftover champagne!
Lychee jelly ingredients
It's pretty much pantry ingredients for these fruit jellies:
- a gelling agent
- sugar (optional)
- nata de coco or other fruits (optional) (Click here for another traditional Japanese jelly fruit salad recipe.)
What gelling agent to use?
There are several gelling agents- gelatine, agar agar and konnyaku jelly- but I like the texture of konnyaku jelly best so that's what I used for my lychee jellies: the firm texture of the konnayku provides a nice contrast to the soft lychee fruit. If you are not familiar with konnayku jelly, I have a short konnayku jelly FAQ section in my yuzu marmalade konnayku jelly post.
Do note that konnayku jelly is not suitable for young chiildren (and maybe old people) as there have been reports of kids choking (link to article in the yuzu konnyaku jelly post).
How to shape these sweet snacks?
As you can see from the photo above, I made the lychee konnyaku jellies in a variety of shapes:
1: jelly in lychee shell - the amount of champagne jelly in each lychee is quite insignificant, to be honest, but it does look good. If I was having a dinner party, I'd make a couple of these just for the visual effect!
Place the lychee in the ice mold to help hold them stable whilst you pour the jelly mix in. Make sure the lychee opening is facing upwards (and not slanted) to make pouring the lychee jelly in easier. As the lychee cavity is tiny, use a ½t measuring spoon to scoop the jelly in- if you have a syringe, so much the better!
2: champagne jellies with a whole lychee in an ice mold (try to use molds that are at least 1.5x the size of the lychee- the ones in my photo were deemed too small and thus had "too little jelly to lychee" according to my testers.
3: lychee jellies with nata de coco in fancy flower-shaped molds (you can use any shape you want to make jellies- it doesn't have to be flower- shaped- but try to use silicone molds as their flexibility makes it so much easier to pop the jellies out!) I added the nata de coco for textural contrast but you can play with other fruits, such as rambutans, lime, ginger etc (A flavour pairing I think would be amazing but haven't had time to explore is rose and lychee.)
How much champagne to use?
To taste the champagne, use a minimum 20% champagne to 80% water when making the lychee jellies- however, if being decadent, you can go all the way and use 100% champagne. I usually make it with a 50% champagne- 50% water ratio. (If you have pink champagne, even better!) Note that you can substitute champagne with sparkling wine, which is usually a little cheaper- they're the same thing, just that champagne is sparkling wine from Champagne, France i.e. "designer" sparkling wine so to speak.
Is it vegan?
Lychee jellies made using gelatin isn't vegan but as we're using konnyaku, which is from the konjac plant, all is good on the gelling agent end. However, not all champagne/ sparkling wine and sugar are vegan, so make sure yours is to make naturally vegan fruit jellies!
If you can't get konnyaku powder, agar agar powder is an alternative vegan gelling agent. (Here's a link for more information about the seaweed agar agar- the main difference is in the texture of the final jellies.)
On the plus side, they contain fruit and konnyaku (fibre). (There are actually noodles made out of konnyaku that Japanese people eat when they want to lose weight, because it's high in fibre and almost 0 calories.) On the minus, they have alcohol and sugar in them, which some experts have said to be more addictive than cocaine and not great for one's health. Nonetheless, homemade lychee jellies are usually healthier than shop-bought ones, as you can control the chemicals and what-not that go into them.
At the end of the day, don't forget to consume in moderation!
Should the water in the canned lychees be used?
If you can get fresh lychees, please use those! However, since fresh lychees are not available year round, I used canned ones to make these lychee konnyaku jellies, which brings us to the question- should the lychee brine (from the can) be used to make lychee jellies?
I'm a little on the fence regarding this so I use the brine sometimes and, other times, not. On one hand, it feels unhealthy as you don't know what preservatives have been added to the lychee syrup. On the other hand, the canned lychees have been sitting in the can for ages, and we're eating them, so it shouldn't be much worse! (Not to mention, the canned lychee syrup smells really good.) Whatever you decide, remember:
- If using the canned syrup, you may still need to add sugar (if your gelling agent has not been pre-mixed with sugar)- mine needed the extra oomph (Hosen brand canned lychees). This would vary from brand to brand, so taste the lychee brine before adding any sugar. However, do use less sugar than you normally would as the syrup is already sweet on its own.
- There isn't that much brine in 1 can of lychees, so you will either need to dilute with water, make fewer jellies or open more cans! (Obviously the higher the proportion of lychee syrup to water used to make jellies, the more lychee fragrance these bite-sized desserts will have.)
- If you don't want to use the lychee brine, you can make your own lychee syrup by boiling the lychees with sugar and water.
- Alternatively, you can just use plain water to make these lychee jellies but they won't be as fragrant.
How to eat
You can have them as desserts or snacks. Alternatively, if you make these lychee konnyaku jellies extra small, you can pop them in your champagne to make a sort of champagne bubble "tea"! Just be careful not to choke- if you're gonna use the lychee jellies in your drinks, you may want to switch to agar agar instead of using konjac jelly as the gelling agent.
Note: Konnyaku/ konjac jellies have been banned in some countries, such as Australia, as kids have choked to death on them so do be careful!
Champagne lychee konnyaku jellies recipe (Lychee bellini jelly) (Naturally vegan)
- Weighing machine/ Measuring cups
- Heat-resistant whisk
- Silicone molds
Making jelly with 1 litre of liquid (water/ champagne/ lychee syrup):
- 1 Can Lychees My 565g can of lychees yielded 230g of lychees once drained
- Nata de coco, or other fruits (Please see above text for fruit suggestions), to taste
- 1 Packet Konnyaku Jelly Powder amount as per back of the packet; can be substituted with agar agar or gelatine. If the amount of water required for your jelly packet is not 1 litre, please adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly. For eg, if your packet only requires 500ml, please halve the amount of lychees etc used
- 100 g white sugar Only add if your konnyaku jelly packet does not include sugar- you may need to add more/less depending on how much lychee syrup you use (and also depending on how sweet your champagne is)
- 1 litre liquid You can use water, lychee syrup, champagne or a mix of these liquids to make up 1 litre. Don't use less than 20% champagne (calculated as a percentage of the total liquid ie 200 ml of champagne is the minimum for 1 litre of water), if not you won't be able to taste it!
- Open the can of lychees and separate the lychees from the liquid. Do not throw away the liquid in the can, unless you do not want to use the lychee brine.
- Place the lychees in the molds- I would suggest not more than 1 lychee in each mold. You may want to cut up the lychee if your mold is very small. (Alternatively you can use the lychee as the vessel for the jelly and set the jelly in the lychee (as shown in the photo)- tips on how to do this is in the text above this recipe.)
- If using nata de coco or any other fruits (suggestions in the text above), place an appropriate amount in each mold.
- Mix the sugar and konnyaku powder together well - this is to reduce clumping when the konnyaku powder is poured into the liquid.
- Add the liquids (but not the champagne) to the pot- i.e. water and/ or lychee syrup. The amount of water and/or lychee syrup added would depend on the champagne concentration you want. For example, if you want the jellies to be 50% champagne, add 500 ml of water and/or lychee syrup to the pot.
- Heat the liquid in the pot and when almost boiling (you will see small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot), very slowly add the konnyaku powder- sugar mixture. Keep stirring continuously whilst adding slowly, if not the powder will form unattractive white clumps in your jelly.
- Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring continuously for 3 minutes (or till the bubbles disappear).
- Switch off the fire then add the champagne to the jelly mix and stir well.
- Pour into molds and allow to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- Remove the jellies from the mold just before serving, if not you will sometimes see the liquid leach out of the jellies.
Hope you liked these lychee jellies!
For other jelly recipes, try this osmanthus and wolfberries konnyaku jelly, this yuzu marmalade konnyaku jelly, this no-sugar coconut agar agar or this coconut water and nata de coco konnyaku jelly recipe.