The golden child of Taiwanese summer desserts, Ai Yu 愛玉 is an amber-colored jelly commonly served with lemons, honey, and wild starch pearls 山粉圓 in tea shops and night markets across the Taiwan. The jelly is made from the seeds of the Ai Yu Jelly Fig (Ficus pumila var. awkeotsang), a plant native to Taiwan with deep significance to the indigenous communities in the Alishan Mountain Range.
To make Ai Yu Jelly, the tiny fig seeds are placed in a mesh bag and rinsed in spring water. This causes them to release pectin that interacts with minerals and sets the water into a jelly. To serve, chill the jelly, scoop it out, and top with honey syrup and lemon juice.
This is a pack of Ai Yu Jelly seeds. It makes 3 quarts of Ai Yu Jelly. Note: you do need a rinsing bag, which you can buy separately here, or just spring for the full kit here.
How It's Made
Scroll down to our photo essay below for more information on Ai Yu production.
Our Aiyu seeds are sourced from a family-owned operation that have grown figs in the Alishan Mountain Range for over 30 years. The cultivar they grow is the original Alishan wild jelly fig, with a very high pectin yield. The fruits are harvested and dried by hand, then flipped inside out to dry, and the seeds are scraped off and packaged.
The natural history of Ai Yu is untamed and beautiful. Ficus vines creep up old growth trees in the Alishan Mountain Range, fruiting two stories high and thriving for decades. An Ai Yu fig wasp, evolved specifically to this plant, pollinates the flowers, allowing the vine to develop fruit. The ripe figs fall to the ground and seeds spill into spring fed creeks, releasing their pectin and, as the story goes, creating spring-borne Jell-O. This stuff is truly wild, and is as much a gift of the wasp as of the plant. Though the vines are grown ornamentally worldwide, they fruit only in Taiwan, because it’s the only habitat for this wasp.
The Ai Yu Jelly commonly available in North America is canned, stabilized with gelatin or carrageenan, flavored or colored with artificial agents, and shockingly cylindrical. The real thing is ephemeral, fractal, and endlessly dividing, lasting only a few days before reverting to liquid form, evading food science. We’re offering not the jelly, but the seeds, so you can make this at home and experience it as it was meant to be. Natural Ai Yu Jelly has a beautiful amber color, and often contains small fibers from the seeds. It sets at room temperature and can also be heated without losing its integrity.
Tasting Notes and Usage
A slippery, soft, Q滑 jelly
(In Taiwan, Q means bouncy and 滑 means slide, so the real tasting note here is bouncy slide.)
Because the jelly is not sweet on its own, serve it with ice cubes, lemon, and honey for a classic Taiwanese preparation. Or experiment with textures by pairing Ai Yu with chewy tapioca pearls, taro balls, and other dessert toppings.
Ingredients and Instructions
100% Ai Yu Fig Seeds
1 pack of seeds makes 12 cups or 3 quarts of ai yu jelly, serves 9-10
Note that you must use hard (mineral) water. We recommend Evian or Fiji brands.
Instructions to make the jelly can be found here
About Yun Hai Selection
Yun Hai Selection is the house brand of Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry.