There are few Cantonese desserts as classic as Almond Jello. This fragrant milk-based gelatin swimming in fruit cocktail (yes, the canned kind) is a dessert staple of the Chinese restaurant dim sum cart. In general, Chinese cuisine places much more emphasis on savory foods than sweet foods, but this specialty has stood the test of time.
At Chinese grocery stores you can find ready-made jello mixes to make this dessert, but with ingredients so basic and results so much more delicious when homemade, why bother?
For my almond jello, I like to add a generous amount of maraschino cherries, so much so that the “very cherry” fruit cocktail blend doesn’t cut it. I buy a separate jar just for the occasion. These cherries make the jello look welcoming and cheery, especially since red is the favorite color of the Chinese, and considered a sign of good fortune and happiness.
If you are wanting an authentic Chinese dessert without the fuss, this is the recipe you are looking for. After a few minutes on the stove top, some fridge time, and popping open some cans, you’ll have a beautiful refreshment, perfect for closing out any heavy Chinese meal.
3 Tbsp powdered gelatin
3 cups cold water
3/4 cup white sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cans fruit cocktail
1- 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, rinsed until water is clear, then drained well, with stems removed then halved
6-8 maraschino cherries (reserved from jar) with stems attached for garnish
large baking pan or casserole dish (9″ x 13″)
6-8 small bowls for serving
1.) In a medium bowl, bloom the gelatin in 2 cups of cold water. Set aside. Lightly spray baking pan with non-stick spray.
2.) Place large pot on stove top and set on med-high. Add last cup of water to the pot and let come up to heat just under the boiling point.
3.) Just before the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to low-med and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Add milk and sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat and add almond extract.
4.) Pour mixture into baking pan and let sit in fridge to chill for 3-4 hours.
5.) When jello is set, cut into 1″ cubes by running knife through the jello in a grid-like pattern. Distribute jello cubes in 6-8 medium bowls, then spoon a few generous tablespoons of fruit cocktail (with syrup) atop the jello. Scatter halved maraschino cherries atop the fruited jello. Garnish each bowl of jello with a stemmed cherry and serve!