Kuzuko (葛粉) in Japanese, Kudzu/Kuzu powder and sometimes translated as Japanese arrow root in English, is starch from the root of the Kudzu plant that grows wild in the mountains of Japan.You might think it is just "starch, but it's said Kudzu starch is the top quality in culinary starch as it is superfine compared to other starch, and interesting to know about the history, the unique method of production and its health benefits.
The Origin and Production
It’s said the name of the plant, Kudzu(葛) originally came from the name of the place called Kuzu (国栖) , Nara, Kansai district where has been a long history, even appearing in the book written in the 8th century called Nihon-shoki (日本書紀, the chronicle of Japan). It is thought that the people living in Kuzu knew well about the plant and made use of it in their life, and then the plant was named "Kuzu".
Kudzu roots are dug in winter, crushed and packed in a cloth bag, then pressed down in water until the starchy liquid from the roots drains out. The starch sediment from the liquid is stirred with fresh water,and left until the starch sediment settles. This washing process is repeated several times for 10 days to remove impurities. Finally, the starch is cut and dried at room temperature for 2 months.
The repeated washing process makes the roots to the very purified white starch. This labor-intensive process called ”Yoshinozarashi” still has been inherited since the Edo period.
Historical and Modern Usages
Kudzu powder has been used for cooking as a thickener and for making desserts such as Kudzu-kiri, Kudzu-mochi and Kudzu-manjyu.
Kudzu kiri(葛切り), a dessert made from Kudzu powder and often served with Kuromitsu(Japanese style syrup)
Goma-tofu (胡麻豆腐) is a famous food for Buddhist monks made from sesame paste and Kudzu powder, and has been eaten since the 7th century when Buddhist teaching began in Mt.Koya, Nara.
Kudzu-yu(葛湯) ,a warm drink with Kudzu powder, would be very familiar for Japanese people as a home remedy to heal indigestion and colds.
Nowadays, Kudzu powder seems to be famous in the world as the macrobiotic diet became more popular. In the diet, Kudzu powder is treated as an important ingredient to keep your good health and used in many recipes. One of the reason Kudzu is good for you is that Kudzu starch makes you warm although other starches make you cold, and it helps to improve the circulation and the gut.
How to Use Kudzu Powder in Your Life
You can use an alternative to other starches. Use it as a thickener for soups and stir-fry to give your dish a silken texture and glossy appeal. You can also use an alternative to cornmeal. Coat vegetables or fish/meat when deep-frying to get a crunchy texture. It’s also nice to add it to a drink or soup, especially when you feel cold. Add it to a drink or soup over low heat and stir until it looks translucent. Making desserts such as jelly, cakes would be very nice.
Imperial grade Kudzu powder from the maker who has been producing it for more than 300 years, since the Edo period, following the "Yoshinozarashi" process using pure well water.
Kudzu Herbal Tea made with kudzu leaves and stems grown in Shimane Prefecture.