Chances are, you haven’t. But it’s been around for thousands of years, being eaten as a source of high fibre to supplement diets in place of other carbohydrates such as traditional rice and noodles. You haven’t heard of it because it hails from Eastern Asia, and is popular in places like Japan, China and Indonesia, where people would look at you funny if you didn’t know what konjac was. China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other countries grow konjac to make konjac flours and jelly (which can be used as a vegan substitute for gelatin!) and have been doing so as long as they can remember. Konnyaku, or konjac cakes, are made with konjac flour. These konjac cakes are also used to make black or white shirataki noodles. In fact, if you’ve had authentic konnyaku at a Japanese restaurant, chances are it was made of konjac!
Konjac has very little taste of its own, and is prized in the East for its texture far more than its flavour – it has a very neutral, slightly salty taste. Now that the West has discovered konjac, it’s been put to a variety of other uses, mainly to create healthy meals for the purpose of weight-loss. High in fibre and completely carb and gluten-free, it makes the perfect diet meal, and there are a variety of konjac foods in the market today. Glucomannan, a sugar made from konjac root and an ingredient (as a gelling agent) in all konjac food products, is also used separately as a medicine, and can be used to treat constipation and type 2 diabetes, as well as lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
Konjac pasta, such as that found in Eat Water’s Slim range, is extremely popular, as it closely resembles the bite and texture of regular pasta and can be used to substitute it in any recipe. The neutral taste is extremely convenient, as it goes with pretty much any of your usual pasta sauces! Since konjac is also gluten-free, many people with gluten sensitivities and Coeliac disease opt for konjac products or regular. People following specific diets, such as low-carb, sugar-free or paleo, also often choose konjac products. Compared to just a few years ago, there is a huge variety available – you can even find konjac-based ready meals and lasagne sheets!
Although konjac has a neutral taste, it has a slightly fishy smell – anyone who has ever cooked shiratake noodles can attest to this! In fact, konjac flour is often used in the preparation of vegan ‘seafood’ flavours for this reason. If your konjac product smells fishy when you open the packet, don’t be alarmed – it’s a sign of its authenticity and quality. Most products just need a rinse to remove the fishy smell – give your konjac rice or noodles a good rinse with cold water, and you’re good to go. Don’t worry, they won’t taste fishy or spoil the delicious aroma of your pasta sauce!
If you’re curious about konjac, give it a try – we’d be happy to help you start your konjac journey.