Konnyaku – The ‘Wonder Diet Food’ and a “Stomach Broom”!
Konnyaku (cone-yah-ku) hails from Japan and is a wonderfully buoyant and gelatin-like food made from a tropical potato. It is nearly 97% water and the rest of the 3% constituents are fiber and minerals. Because it has very little calories and actually expands in your stomach, it has been touted as a wonder diet food. The Japanese actually call konnyaku the “stomach broom” because it has a natural way of sweeping through the intestines and cleaning them out!
Konnyaku’s Unique Texture
To be perfectly honest, konnyaku doesn’t actually have that much of a taste. Rather, it is a true texture food that absorbs flavor from whatever ingredients accompany it, and it is used in sweet and savory dishes alike. But we should really take some time to pay homage to konnyaku’s unique texture. As mentioned before, it is a bouncy and buoyant food, much like tapioca pearl, that has a rubbery sensation, and is very, very chewy. It’s really quite fun and entertaining for your mouth, and if you like chewy foods, chances are you’ll love konnyaku.
Health Benefits of Konnyaku
Konnyaku also has some pretty serious health benefits. Beyond being a really great diet food that promotes a feeling of satiety, it has also shown an ability to stabilize both blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as prevent high blood pressure. If you’re interested in giving konnyaku a try, make your local Japanese or Asian grocery store your first stop. You can buy it in block form and use as you wish, or opt for the shiritaki (noodle-like) version. With this food’s texture and mild taste, it was truly made for experimenting in the kitchen. Enjoy!
A Nice Konnyaku Recipe
While searching for a nice konnyaku recipe, I came across a food blog run by Makiko Itoh, or Maki for short. Makiko is a Japanese, born in Tokyo but has “led a very nomadic existence since childhood”, living in England, USA, Switzerland and France. Her primary focus on her blog ‘Just Hungry’ is Japanese food and home cooking. Here is her konnyaku recipe:
Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers (Konnyaku aglio olie e peperoncino)
Serves 1 to 2. If using 1 tablespoon of oil, the whole amount comes out to about 140 calories (plus cheese).
You will need:
- 1 large block (250g / about 1/2 lb) grey or white konnyaku
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 to 2 hot red chili peppers, deseeded and chopped
- 1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Prepare the konnyaku: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drain and rinse the block of konnyaku – it will smell odd! Slice the block into half horizontally, and then slice thinly into strips. Put the strips of konnyaku into the boiling water. Bring up to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain the konnyaku into a colander, and let rest until the slices are cool and dried out.
In a large sauté pan, heat up the oil and add the garlic and chili peppers over medium heat. Sauté until the garlic is just turning color. Remove the garlic and chili from the pan and reserve. Add the konnyaku to the pan – it may spit at you a bit, so be careful. Turn the heat up to high and sauté until the surface of the konnyaku slices are blistered and turning a bit brown. Add back the garlic and chili peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve just as-is or with some grated cheese on top. Best eaten when hot, though it’s not bad when cool either.
Jocelyn Eide is a writer-researcher from Montana, USA, and writes on a variety of insightful topics, including natural health. When she is not working, she is likely doing Yoga.