How to Make
This dessert needs to be made at least a few hours ahead of the time that you’d like to serve it so that the jelly and custard can cool and set.
First, the jelly.
Steep the jasmine tea in the hot water for 15 minutes, then strain out the tea leaves and let the tea cool completely.
I learned this the hard way when I made batches on batches of almond tofu that you absolutely need to let powdered gelatin (can’t speak to agar agar or gelatin sheets) bloom in cold water (or tea, in this case) first.
Otherwise, the final dessert won’t set (either at all or unevenly).
With storebought flavored and sweetened gelatin mixes, you can get away without doing that since there’s enough sugar to separate all the gelatin bits and encourage hydration. However, this recipe has a lot less sugar, so letting the gelatin relax in some cold water is a must.
You should also sprinkle the gelatin in a thin layer on top of the water, rather than letting it settle into a little hill. The water doesn’t get absorbed into the gelatin evenly, again potentially leading to a sad jelly later on.
Now that I’ve sufficiently warned (scared? whoops) you, you should have your gelatin bloomed and ready to rumble.
Stir in a pinch of salt and your sweetener of choice. I like either using the syrup from a can of lychees or granulated white sugar, depending on what I have on hand.
Mix in some chopped lychee, then pour into your serving glasses, bowls, cups, or whatever else you’d like. This will be the jelly’s final destination, so make sure that you are using something you don’t mind serving or eating out of (ie a big mixing bowl, unless that’s your vibe and I support you).
I used champagne glasses in these pictures, and although the effect looks nice, I would recommend using containers that are more shallow and wide. Pretty doesn’t mean much when it’s hard to get a good bite of jelly + custard at the same time.
There’s a fairly high concentration of gelatin to water, so the jelly will set up within a few hours.
Onto the coconut custard.
Heat the coconut milk over the stove until the milk starts to steam. I’d keep an eye on this, since you don’t want it to boil over (ugh the mess) or form a skin on top (should this happen, try to scoop it off so your custard doesn’t have random chewy bits).
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together a few egg yolks with some salt and sugar until you can’t tell where one yolk begins and another ends.
Slowly add about a third of the hot milk to the eggs while you constantly whisk the eggs. Getting exactly one third of the milk into the eggs doesn’t matter, though it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little.
The purpose of this step is to warm up the eggs slowly so that when you cook the custard on the stove, they don’t scramble on contact.
It’s easier to tag a friend to ladle milk in while you whisk, though it’s definitely doable as a one person show as well.
Once you’ve added enough milk to your eggs, pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk.
Cook over medium low heat until the custard is thickened slightly. Because this custard will be poured over the jelly later, it doesn’t need to be super thick.
For anyone with extra energy and/or you notice a few scrambled egg rebels in your custard, you can strain the custard in a sieve for a silky smooth texture. I typically don’t, but your call.
Pour the custard into a bowl or container, cover, and chill overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, pour the custard over the jelly and serve with a crispy cookie.
The bitterness of the tea in the jelly is balanced nicely by the fruity lychee and the sweetness from the coconut custard.
There are also a few different textures, from the firm jelly and the slightly crunchy fruit to the creamy custard and the crispy cookie.
Say you don’t want tea in the jelly: you could omit it completely and just bloom the gelatin in plain cold water.
For anyone who isn’t a fan of jasmine tea, any other tea would work well here too! Sencha or oolong sound delicious, though I probably wouldn’t opt for anything too roasty.
You could even use matcha – I’d start with a teaspoon or so, and whisk it into the hot water, then let cool before adding the gelatin.
You can use agar agar or gelatin sheets in place of the powdered gelatin. However, this recipe is not written to use those substitutes (nor have I tried using them), so I can’t guarantee that the texture will turn out the same.
I tested this recipe with both canned and fresh lychee, and both work here. Given that canned lychee are more readily available year-round, don’t require peeling, and come in a sugar syrup, I prefer canned.
If you end up using canned lychee, I highly recommend using some of the syrup to sweeten the tea jelly. You have the syrup on hand anyways, and it adds a nice flavor.
Plus, leftover canned lychee and lychee syrup means you can make this lychee and rosewater cake (:
I like serving this with crispy butter cookies. It felt very on brand to use the butter cookies from the metal tins that a lot of Asian Americans and other immigrant communities repurpose into sewing kits, but any crunchy cookie works well.
For anyone who doesn’t want to go the cookie route, anything light and crispy would be a good idea. Maybe a handful of toasted almonds or a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or my mind is running towards crushed up black sesame candy.
- 2 tablespoons jasmine tea leaves
- ½ cup hot water
- ½ cup cold water
- 0.25 oz powdered gelatin or ½ packet
- 4 tablespoons canned lychee syrup or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- ¼ cup chopped lychee fresh or canned
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 large egg yolks
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- Crispy cookies
Combine the tea and hot water in a medium heat-proof bowl, then let steep for 15 minutes. Remove the tea leaves.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, pour in the cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly on top of the water in one layer, then let sit for 5 minutes.
If your tea is feeling a little cool, re-heat it in the microwave until hot, then mix into the gelatin mixture. Mix in the syrup or sugar, and the salt.
Divide the lychee between 3 serving glasses, then pour in the gelatin mixture. Don’t worry if it looks like the lychee is sinking to the bottom.
Cover the glasses and refrigerate until set, which shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
In a small pot over medium heat, heat up the coconut milk until steaming. Try to keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t start boiling.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt and sugar until combined.
Once the milk is hot, turn off the heat. Ladle one scoop at a time into the eggs, whisking constantly to ensure that the eggs do not scramble. Repeat this process until about a third of the milk has been added to the eggs.
Add the eggs and milk mixture to the rest of the milk in the pot, and place the pot back on medium-low heat. Cook, stirring and scraping the custard frequently if not constantly, until the custard coats the back of a nonstick spatula and doesn’t drip off the spatula easily. This will get poured over the jelly, so it doesn’t have to be super thick.
Pour the custard into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
When ready to serve, pour the coconut custard over the jelly. Either crumble cookies on top of the custard, or serve the cookies alongside the dessert.
If you don’t want to use jasmine tea, you can omit and use plain water instead of tea, or you can substitute for another kind of tea.
If you don’t want to serve this with cookies, you can top with toasted almonds, roasted sesame seeds, or crushed black sesame candy.