Konnyaku (Konjac)

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When you eat Konnyaku for the first time, you might wonder, “What is this made of?” In fact, when foreigners find out it is made from konjac potato (Araceae), they just can’t believe it. It is said that Konnyaku has been eaten in Japan, China, Myanmar, and Korea for a long time.

It is said that Konjac was introduced to Japan from China and Korea in the sixth century as a medicinal food to relieve intestinal ailments, but the exact details of this story are still unknown. Although it was considered to be medicine at first, it began to be treated as normal food starting from the Kamakura period. It is also consumed as a substitute of meat in the Shojin cuisine (vegetarian food) of Japanese temples. Its popularity spread across the country during the 17th century. 

Usually, normal potatoes can be harvested in a few months, but Konjac potatoes are very delicate and take 2-3 years to harvest. They are also vulnerable to low temperature and rot easily, making them very difficult to preserve. In Japan, the technology for storing Konjac in powder form was developed in 1776, and since then, its productivity has been much enhanced.

With its unique chewiness and irresistible taste, Konnyaku often appears in many Japanese dishes like Oden, stew, miso-soup, and miso soup with pork and vegetables. “Dengaku” is another popular dish, in which Konnyaku is put on a skewer and boiled in broth or hot water. This boiled Konnyaku is then dipped in miso and grilled. Since Japanese people like their Konnyaku soaked and flavorful, they came up with some different ways to cut Konnyaku so that it would become even tastier. Sometimes they use the opposite side of the kitchen knife to cut, which creates Konnyaku with more area directly in contact with sauce. There is also a method of slicing the Konnyaku’s surface and tearing it up by hand. In addition to square Konnyaku, Shirataki, which is Konnyaku cut into noodle-like strips, absorb soup well and are ideal for pot dishes, especially sukiyaki. In recent years, eating Konnyaku with wasabi and soy sauce like sashimi has become popular as well.

Since 98% of Konnyaku is water, it has few calories and can clean out your intestine. It is also often used as an ingredient in diet versions of jelly and pasta. But we would advise to eat this food in moderation. If you eat more than one kilogram of Konnyaku a day, it can cause blockage in your intestine.

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