A Shot of Gulaman


Gulaman, to those not in the know, is a Filipino gelatin-like substance made from dried and processed red seaweed. Gulaman may be better known in other parts of the world as Agar-Agar, agar, or carrageenan. Put even more simply, Gulaman can best be described as “Filipino Jello.”

Wobbly cubes of Gulaman can usually be found in Filipino sweets, sitting atop tall glasses of Halo-halo, or mixed into cool drinks like Sago at Gulaman (a Filipino dessert kinda-sorta-but-not-really similar to bubble tea and jelly).

Although Gulaman, at first glance, does look a lot like American jello, there are some very key differences. Firstly, Gulaman is 100% vegetarian since it’s made from seaweed, whereas gelatin is made from the crushed bones of puppies, kittens, and koala bears (a sad but true fact). Gulaman also sets at room temperature (and can be kept out at room temperature), while gelatin needs to be refrigerated. Lastly, gulaman does not melt in your mouth (or in your hand for that matter) like gelatin does. In fact, once set, gulaman will not melt again until it reaches 185 degrees F. So unless you’re a dragon, you’ll have to chew on gulaman a bit before swallowing. And if you are a dragon, hey man, that’s cool.

In spite of the differences between gulaman and gelatin, gulaman can (and should) be used in many of the same ways as gelatin. For example, gulaman lends itself particularly well to the following gelatin-friendly applications:

While I would have loved to experiment with the first two items on that list (especially the wrastlin’!), I only had enough gulaman to try my hand at edible cocktails.

There’s always room for G-U-L-A-M-A-N.

While this LA Times article provides great examples of edible cocktails, I used this recent recipe from Sunset Magazine as my inspiration for my own jellied cocktails. The Sunset recipe combined rangpur lime juice, gelatin, and tequila for a margarita-like gel cocktail, whereas I just subbed in Kalamansi juice and gulaman for the rangpur and gelatin.

“Gulaman” and “Agar” are technically the same thing (both being
made from red seaweed), but I’ve found that they are usually packaged
differently in stores. Gulaman can be found in various forms at most Asian markets. It can come in solid bar form, powdered, or even in flakes. There is even flavored gulaman in packages similar to jello boxes, emblazoned with whatever fruit it’s supposed to taste like. However, I couldn’t find any unflavored packages labeled as “gulaman” but I was able to find packets of a Thai brand of Agar-Agar powder that contained no artificial flavors or colors–it was just plain and simple agar powder.

Agar-agar powder powder

Generally speaking, 1 teaspoon of Agar powder is needed per 1 cup of liquid. But because I’ve never worked with gulaman or agar before, I was worried that the acid in the kalamansi juice or the alcohol in the tequila would interfere with everything setting up.

So I decided to double up on the Agar powder on my first run-through for my recipe (4 teaspoons of agar, 2 cups of liquid). Although everything tasted fine with this ratio, the texture was just too firm. So I made another batch, this time with 2 teaspoons of agar to 2 cups of liquid, and the texture was just right–lots of wobble and wiggle but still firm enough to grasp with the fingers. Ultimately, I found that neither the kalamansi juice nor the tequila interfered with the solution firming up into a gel.

I can certainly attest to the strength of these little shooters, I popped a few and did get a nice little buzz going. While I used tequila in my recipe, I think gin or vodka would work just as well–especially if you make your own Kalamansi-Infused Vodka.

And for those of you who only associate jello shots with college
tomfoolery and shenanigans (ah, good times), well, I can’t really blame
you. But if you do your jelly shots right and dress them up a bit, you
can serve them as fancy-pants hors d’oeuvres at your own fancy-pants
dinner party.

Ooooh lar lar! Dixie cup upgrade!

Kalamansi Gulaman Shooters

Serves 6-10

2 teaspoons Agar-Agar powder (can be found at Asian market)
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh kalamansi juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup silver tequila
Sea salt for sprinkling (optional), Ilocano sea salt if you’ve got it

In a small saucepan, combine the agar-agar powder and water and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the kalamansi juice and all of the sugar to the pan. Bring pan to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula and ensuring the sugar dissolves.

Remove pan from heat, then pour contents into a separate bowl. Add the rest of the kalamansi juice to the bowl and continue to stir. Place the bowl over an ice bath and continue stirring vigorously until mixture cools to the touch, 1-2 minutes (you just want it to cool down enough so you can add the tequila without cooking out any of the alcohol).

Once the juice mixture has cooled to the touch (you can stick your finger in it without saying “ouch”), add the tequila. The mixture will immediately begin setting up and stiffening, but keep stirring vigorously to ensure tequila is incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap.

Allow the mixture to harden at room temperature, about 10 minutes. You can also place the hardened gulaman into the refrigerator if you’d like, but once set, it will not melt at room temperature.

When you are ready to serve, pull the gulaman out of the pan by lifting the plastic wrap. Slice the gulaman into bite-sized cubes and serve on a large platter, or in individual salt-rimmed shot glasses.

Stay Classy!

  • Lorraine April 2, 2009, 12:13 am

    Yay! I like Gulaman way more than Jello- but I’ve never made it myself. Those agar-agar blocks scare me, to be honest. But I suppose I can just grind them up and use them as you did here?

  • mike April 2, 2009, 1:50 am

    This post suddenly made me crave for buko pandan.

  • ahnjel April 2, 2009, 2:00 am

    nice… i havent used gulaman in my jello shots, but i will from now on! only, i hope my 1yr old daughter dont get her hands on them since she really loves gulaman.
    again, congratulation! felicitations! omedetou!
    on having a bun in the oven.
    a baby is the most expensive toy youll ever get, ever! hahaha
    well, grats again!

  • Lorena April 2, 2009, 9:08 am

    Finally! I can enjoy Jell-o-esque shooters a la my younger, college-aged friends. :)
    But, seriously, as a vegetarian, I haven’t had a Jell-o shooter in years. Looks like I’ll have something new to bring to all the summer parties this year.
    Thanks, Marvin! (Oh, and congrats on the bebe!)

  • Erika April 2, 2009, 9:54 am

    What a fantastic idea! I’ll have to try making these for my next party. Thanks Marvin =)

  • Rebecca (Foodie With Family) April 2, 2009, 3:51 pm

    I haven’t thought of jello shots in years. But somehow when you make them from gulaman it seems less, oh, Grateful Dead concert/Frat Party (I had varied friends in college) and more class-ay. (And the fact that I said class-ay shows you I have NONE!) Yum.
    Congratulations on the babe. They’re kind of addictive. I had to stop myself at five :-)

  • Krizia April 2, 2009, 6:14 pm

    WOW. These are perfect for the Pilipino Pood Party I’m throwing for my pew priends here in NY (I really am throwing a Filipino Food Farty complete w/ tsamporado and tuyo). And we’re all post-college grads/pre-professionals…you know…like your future child will be in ~23 years 😉

  • Jikuu April 2, 2009, 9:30 pm

    This is a great idea! I have a pal who thinks Jell-O’s an abomination. He’s a bit dense, though, as he won’t believe me that gelatin ends up in BBQ and soups. *sigh* Maybe he’ll change his mind if he tried some of the gulaman.

  • darlene April 2, 2009, 9:33 pm

    You totally put an idea in my head. Your gulaman reminds of a Thai dessert called kanom chun. It’s a layered dessert that looks to be the same consistency. The layers can have different colors. Green usually tastes like pandan and white like coconut. I may have to try to pick up this agar powder. I’ve seen it but just never knew what to do with it.

  • Julie April 3, 2009, 11:08 am

    You’re smart, Marvin–using regular gelatin with alcohol can be a time-consuming pain in the butt!

  • jenn April 3, 2009, 12:15 pm

    Gulaman shots. I love that idea. I may just have to try this myself.
    The way I love my gulaman is with sago!!

  • Jasmine April 5, 2009, 9:35 am

    Wow, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this is my first time commenting. I love this idea. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of it or seen it done somewhere else before. I especially like the calamansi/tequila combo. I’m going to have to try these for my next party. Thanks!

  • Tangled Noodle April 5, 2009, 3:17 pm

    Excellent! I bought the exact packet of agar-agar but my first experiment was a failure. I’ll have to try your shooters (more fun than just plain ol’ gulaman)!

  • Erin April 6, 2009, 1:08 pm

    Those have to be the most elegant jello shots I have ever seen. Leave it to you!

  • Efren April 8, 2009, 9:12 am

    That looks awesome. My ex and I actually did this before for vegan jello shots, using vodka and Hawaiian punch for the flavoring (I was only 25 at the time, so forgive me :).
    The proteins in agar-agar don’t break down in acid like the gelatin proteins so you didn’t have to worry about it–which is a definite plus.
    The funny thing is that ever since I took a microbiology class and learned that agar is used for petri dishes, I haven’t been able to look at it the same way, especially since I made plates using agar and cow’s blood for certain germs… Hmm, maybe it’s time for a dinardaraan gulaman shot! ROTFL. 😉

  • Manggy April 9, 2009, 6:29 pm

    You should’ve been around when we were kids– gulaman only came in bar form, and we had to shred those gummy bastards into a tub of water to soften… (They still sell them that way, by the way… Our interpretation of “leaf gelatin”.) I love the bite-y texture of agar. A totally different animal from gelatin :)

  • Cynthia April 13, 2009, 8:17 am

    Thanks for introducing me to and educating me about a new product.

  • Joyce April 27, 2009, 2:40 pm

    Just found your blog. Love it! Can’t wait to read more!

  • Burnt Lumpia May 7, 2009, 1:42 pm

    I’m not sure about the blocks, Loraine. I’ve only experimented with the powder, so I can’t say for sure how to use other forms of agar.
    I love buko pandan too, mike.
    definitely keep the alcohol away from the little ones, ahnjel. And thanks!
    Thanks Lorena! And these shooters are perfect for parties.
    You’re welcome, Erika. Thank you!
    These are definitely a more grown up version of jello shots, Rebecca;) You must be a very patient woman w/ 5 kids!
    I’m sure you throw the best Pilipino Pood Parties, Krizia!
    You’re completely right about gelatin, Jikuu. Mmm, now I have a craving for some bbq!
    Agar powder is fairly easy to use, darlene. I’d be interested in seeing this Thai dessert if you make it.
    Thanks Julie! Yes, gelatin would take forever to set.
    Thanks Jen! I’ve never had gulaman and sago.
    Thanks for finally leaving a comment, Jasmine!
    Way more fun than plain ol’ gulaman! Thanks Tangled noodle.
    Thanks very much Erin! It’s all trick photography ;P
    I read that too Efren about petri dishes. But since I’ve never worked with them in that context it doesn’t bother me. And great idea about the dinardaraan… or maybe not;)
    I’ve yet to see the bar form here, manggy, but I can imagine how much of a pain it would be to soften them.
    No prob, Cynthia!
    Thanks Joyce. I hope you visit often!

  • Fiery Diva July 8, 2009, 5:42 pm

    Found your blog after buying a bottle of datu puti vinegar with all the lovely little peppers. Then went online to google for more data about how to use so I can branch out from admiring the bottle in my cabinet over the stove. First up: fish with a spicy dip.
    Marvin–Love the blog; never loved jello…will try gulaman shots to amaze and disarm my friends.

  • greasemonkey July 19, 2009, 8:07 am

    hahaha, manggy, those seaweed sticks were the shiznit!
    fiery diva, i hope the amazing and disarming went exceedingly well! try lambanog with it too! 😉
    another fantastic post, marvin! every post i read makes me feel that you really are my long lost brother! (wen, manong!) lol!

  • Sandra July 2, 2010, 4:32 am

    LOL. Wow that’s the most outragest and uneducated comment I’ve read. Jello made from koala let alone dogs and kittens. Hahaha. Maybe in the Phils. But in Australia where koalas come from. That would be called “cruelty to animals” and would never ever happen. What a sad sad world if that were to happen. Gelatin is made from the skin and tissue of cows and pigs. Hence my preference for gulaman.

  • Gulaman September 10, 2010, 4:20 am

    Yummy looking recipe.. Quite appealing. Cant wait to try this and the color looks simply gorgeous.The steps look simple too. Thanks for sharing.. Simply my kinda recipe.http://www.facebook.com/pages/Viva-Magazine-Your-Premium-Womens-Natural-Health-Magazine/262734921452?ref=ts The comments were fun reading..


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