Konnyaku has been used in Japan as a medicinal food for 1500 years and was very popular during the Edo period. It is likewise a staple in Chinese medicine, said to aid in detoxification as well as a host of other benefits. Konnyaku is also a very popular ingredient for weight loss because it is high in fiber and very filling, with almost no calories. Great for a new year detox!
It's been really windy this winter on our ranch in Southern California. Humidity is at 5%, and the winds blow at 50 miles per hour, nearly five days a week. It's so hard for me because I'm from the humid island of Japan.
My mother used to cook konnyaku for us when it was very windy and dusty. She said that the konnyaku clears away all the dust you inhaled during the day (called suna oroshi). While there is no scientific basis for this, an old Japanese wise man said it so I believe it.
Konnyaku is a processed food. It usually comes in a block, just like tofu. It is made with konnyaku-potato which is derived from a bulb (corm) at the base of the Konjac plant.
After harvest, the konnayku-potatoes are shredded and dried and crushed into powder, which is mixed with hot water and shaped. It is then boiled to remove any remaining impurities. Lots of work! The good news is that you can find the finished product at most Asian markets!
You can season konnyaku however you choose: soy sauce (of course), garlic, oil, chili, miso, anything! You can also cut konnyaku into different shapes. I like a twisted shape in the Japanese traditional style. It looks sophisticated, and is very easy and fun. Let me show you how to do it.
Slice the konnyaku into 1/2 inch thick pieces, then cut another hole through the middle, about 1-inch wide.
Use your thumb to pass one end of the konnyaku through the hole:
Let the entire end of the konnyauku through to get this ribbon-like shape:
Boil the konnyaku for about 3 minutes to remove any remaining impurities, then drain water.
Season the konnyaku with whatever you like. This time I used 1 cup of dashi, 1.5 tablespoon mirin, 1.5 tablespoon soy sauce and one dried Japanese red chili and simmered for about 20 minutes.
Serve and enjoy with katsuobushi (bonito flakes)!
*Yuki HD is a Tokyo native with deep roots in izakaya-style home cooking. She currently makes her home in the southwestern United States where the foods of many cultures meet and mingle. Kuishinbo means “rigorous eater” in Japanese. Eat up!