Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Friday 26 February 2016

Kitchen Traveler (2) learning how to cook Devil's tongue, Konjac

konjac is healthy vegan food

The tuber of Devil’s tongue, also known as elephant yam, is called konjac in Japanese.
it contains glucomannan, soluble dietary fiber, and starch, and it is getting popular as a gluten-free vegan food, also known as "yam tofu".

It is originated from asian tropical regions, but its tuber is used mainly in Japan.
In Edo period (samurai era in 19th century), Konnyaku Hyakusen (100 recipes of Konnyaku) was published.
it tastes good by raw, called sashimi konjac, but it is common to eat by boiling with potatoes and eggs, called oden.

Today, I learned how to make konjac from a village woman, Tani san living in Kito town in Tokushima prefecture.

konjac plants

This tuber crop is Araseae family same as taro.
It takes around 3 years until the tuber can be used for making konjac.
It is also called Devil’s tongue, as the shape of this tuber looks like devil's tongue, or because it contains rich oxalic acid, which avoid animal damage,  I guess.

processing konjac

The tuber is milled to make flour. Then, boiled  with lime water and cooled in the wooden box to consolidate.
In some areas, konjac is formed in just round-shape like onigiri, rice ball.
Sometimes, fruits, seaweeds, and chill are added to make flavor and color. 

wisdom to utilize ash as coagulant, called "aku"

Traditionally, in order to consolidate the jelly, ash water, called "aku 灰汁" is used instead of lime.
There are various materials to make coagulant.

  • Zatsuboku, Timber ash:  the best ash can be made by oak tree or other broad-leaf trees. conifer is not suitable for making ash.
  •  Warabai, Straw ash: relatively stable compared to timber ash.
  • Mamegara, bean husk ash: makes konjac tasty, according to villagers

ash is diluted by water many times, and it takes around 2-3 days to be ready to use.
it depends on the ingredient of the ash, and also water content, and strength of the ash (concentration), and there is no recipe to make the harshness from the ash.

"Every year, it is different"
said tani san.

concentration of aku depends on its material and how it was made.
so, farmers taste the aku, and see the concentration.

It is difficult to adjust the amount, and nowadays young people prefer to use lime or sodium carbonate.

 "aku" is saved in a bottle

how to learn?

There are many places to teach how to make konjac in rural area.
Usually villagers make konjac in winter season during December to February.
In kansai region, Kyoto, Iga, Nara have several programs about konjac.

fee: around 1,500~2,000 yen
duration: 2-3 hours
place: nara, mie, kyoto, and many other places

Example (Nara):
Taima no Ie 
Nara prefecture Katsuragi-shi Shin-zaike, 402nd area, 1.
1,000 yen per person

for internship at Kito
Yama no NPO
Small good things ~Learning from the traditional Kito way of life~


English resource

<Access to Kito>