Traditional Handmade Konjac

By Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

What is konjac? Konjac is a well-known ingredient in Japan, traditionally eaten in oden, boiled dishes, and more. It is also known as a “stomach broom”, due to the fact that konjac can remove unnecessary things from one’s body. Konjac is full of dietary fiber, low in calories, and gluten-free, and has attracted attention as a food that offers positive cosmetic effects on the body, the ability to control blood glucose levels, and even the ability to absorb bodily waste products and remove them from the body. 

Famous Konjac Maker Toshiko Tasaki (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Toshiko Tasaki, knows as an expert konjac maker in the town of Takachiho, showed us how to make homemade konjac. Typical konjac is made using dried powder, but in Takachiho, each and every farmer has been making konjac from the konjac plant since ancient times. Each year, fewer and fewer people make konjac regularly, and it is becoming rare to find someone who can, but the process of making konjac, passed down through generations, is of great interest even to younger generations here in Takachiho. Toshiko tells us that she teaches people how to make konjac at local events. Let’s take a look at how konjac is made.

Konjac Potatoes (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Ingredients in konjac

The main ingredient in konjac is the bulb of the konjac potato plant, a member of the araceae family. The rugged, rock-like konjac potatoes come in a variety of shapes and colors. It takes 3 years for the potato to grow large enough to be used in konjac.

Konjac-Making (A Paste Made from Konjak Flour), Konjac Potatoes (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Cutting the boiled konjac potato

The well-washed konjac potato is put into boiling water and boiled for several hours. The potato has been boiled long enough when a chopstick or toothpick slides in easily. When the potato has been boiled, it is cut into large pieces and soaked in water. The potato has a strong astringency, and can’t be eaten as is. Applying lye (the liquid that floats to the top when ash is added to water) to the potatoes neutralizes the astringency, making the potatoes edible. Smiling, Toshiko says, “the person who came up with this method was really amazing, don’t you think?”

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Into the blender

The cut konjac potato pieces are put into a blender with water and liquified. It then turns into a white, thick liquid. You can also add mugwort or yuzu fruit during the blending process, creating a konjac rich in aroma and flavor. Standing next to Toshiko is her grandchild, helping to make the konjac. It seems that Toshiko’s homemade konjac is a big favorite.

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Kneading and mixing

After mixing thoroughly, the mixture is moved to a bowl, mixing in air with the hand.

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Adding lye and mixing more

Now lye is added, and the mixture is thoroughly mixed. Toshiko says you can use sodium carbonate in place of the lye. The mixture is mixed until the stickiness goes away, adding water along the way to adjust the hardness of the mixture. It requires many years of experience and intuition to be able to tell from looking that the mixture is just right – not too soft and not too hard. 

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Rolling into balls

When the mixture has become quite hard, it is rolled into palm-sized balls. The mixture quickly takes on a wonderful meatball shape as Toshiko gently shapes it in her palms. This is a process that takes time to master. She tells me how konjac can have a variety of colors due to the nature of the potato used, from gray to brown.

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Boiling in hot water

The rounded, meatball-shaped konjac is put into hot water and boiled. This must be done with great care, as the just-shaped round konjac balls fall apart easily. The konjac balls are boiled for about 1 hour while occasionally adding more water to the pot. The boiling process is finished when the konjac balls begin to float in the water. I can start to smell the distinctive konjac smell.

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Cooling in running water

The boiled konjac is placed in a bamboo basket and cooled with running water to finish!

Konjac-Making (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Handmade Konjac (2019/2019)Original Source: GIAHS Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site

Konjac made from fresh konjac potatoes can be eaten as is. It has a great texture and the resilience when biting paired with the delicious rich flavor is an emotional experience for me, changing my perception of what konjac is. Toshiko recommends eating konjac with kabosu soy sauce, which is a soy sauce variety with kabosu (a citrus fruit with a rich aroma and sour flavor) juice mixed in. There are many ways to enjoy konjac depending on the season, with a variety of recipes, including eating konjac as sashimi, as onishime (a simmered dish consumed during Takachiho festivals), or in grilled dishes, such as kinpira (“thinly-sliced vegetables”).

Credits: Story

Cooperation with
Takachiho Tourist Association
Takachiho Town

Photos: Misa Nakagaki
Text & Edit: Saori Hayashida
Production: Skyrocket Corporation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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