Agar

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Mizuyōkan - a popular Japanese red bean jelly made from agar.

Red blood cells on an agar plate are used to diagnose infection.

Agar or agar-agar is a gelatinous substance derived from a polysaccharide that accumulates in the cell walls of agarophyte red algae.[1][2] Historically and in a modern context, it is chiefly used as an ingredient in desserts throughout Asia and also as a solid substrate to contain culture medium for microbiological work. The gelling agent is an unbranched polysaccharide obtained from the cell walls of some species of red algae, primarily from the genera Gelidium and Gracilaria, or seaweed (Sphaerococcus euchema). Commercially it is derived primarily from Gelidium amansii.

Agar (agar-agar) can be used as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in jellies, ice cream and other desserts, as a clarifying agent in brewing, and for sizing paper and fabrics.

Chemically, agar is a polymer made up of subunits of the sugar galactose. Agar polysaccharides serve as the primary structural support for the algae's cell walls.

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Names

The word "agar" comes from the Malay word agar-agar (meaning jelly). It is also known as kanten, China grass, or Japanese isinglass. The various species of alga or seaweed from which agar is derived are sometimes called Ceylon moss. Gracilaria lichenoides specifically is referred to as agal-agal or Ceylon agar.[3]

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