A few months ago Jeremy and I were invited to learn how to make Konnyaku. We had no idea what it was but we were open to the adventure. It was an event being put on by one the English schools in Iwakuni.
One of the teachers picked Jeremy and I up by the front gate of the base because the event was at a factory in Nishikimachinakanose (about 45 minutes outside of Iwakuni). Along the way we picked up a teacher from Canada and their boss. Once we arrived at the factory we were joined by two other teachers and some of the factory workers that would be leading the event.
The first thing we did was watch a video on Konnyaku. The video explained that Konnyaku was a traditional Japanese food that was made from a poisonous potato and lye (sounds yummy right?). While it has been eaten in Japan for centuries, factories like the one we were visiting, were trying to rebrand it as a miracle health food/ weight loss food. Konnyaku is only 3% plant fiber and 97% water. It takes on the flavor of what it is cooked with and can be made to take the shape of many different things. Think of it like you would tofu.
After the video, we were taught how to actually make our own Konnyaku. Due to the poisonous properties it is made with, we had to wear aprons and gloves to protect our skin. Konnyaku is made from a type potato called Devil’s Tongue (it has this name because if you touch it can cause your skin to itch like crazy). The ground potato is mixed with lye and water until it is the consistency of jiggly clay. After it is all mixed together and molded into the shape you want, you boil it for a couple about an hour. Once boiled it is no longer poisonous.
While our Konnyaku was boiling, we were taken on a tour of the factory. They showed us where the it was made and the different machines that made the different shapes of Konnyaku. It can be made into blocks (typically used as a meat substitute), noodles of various sizes, and even rice shape.
After the tour, they invited us to a feast they made for us. Before the feast could start, we were taught a Japanese tradition where you catch noodles flowing down a pipe with chopsticks. Its actually easier than it sounds. They had water flowing through bamboo pipes cut in half and coming down at an angle. We all stood beside it as they dropped noodles into the water. You had to catch the noodles quickly before the slipped past. Jeremy was actually quite good at this. I was decent at it. They said it was traditional to do this at the beginning of dinner parties during the summer.
The feast that the factory workers had made for us was really cool. Each dish had a something made from Konnyaku. They wanted us to try and figure out what was Konnyaku and what was normal food. Most of it was quite good. I loved the fried rice, meatloaf burger, and tuna salad the best. Some of the things I couldn’t tell what was the Konnyaku and some I could. I found I liked Konnyaku in most of its forms. I only didn’t like it when it was in its large block form because that was only because of its texture. I’m not a fan of jiggly food unless it’s Jell-O. For dessert they had chocolate Konnyaku ice cream. I loved it!!!
Before we left they gave us each a gift bag of Konnyaku goodies to try to cook when we went home. We ended up passing our out to friends to try because we loved it. We haven’t tried making at home yet but I plan on changing that soon. I’ll let you know how it goes when I try cooking with it.