Written By Kevin Kapusi Starow
Kuzu, is a natural thickening agent derived from the root of the kuzu (Pueraia lobata) plant, which is used extensively throughout Japan due, amongst other qualities, to its superior thickening properties. Unlike potato or corn starch, kuzu is a natural and unprocessed starch, with a clean taste, which is also known as kudzu or kuzuko.
The Kuzu plant has been used in China as a source of food for some 2000 years. In Japan it has been praised as a thickening agent for some 1000 years. Traditionally the entire plant was utilised from the flowers, leaves, seeds and of course, as already mentioned. The roots for a variety of uses such as for deserts, making noodles, and as medicine. Kuzu has often been referred to as the Japanese arrowroot. Though this should not be confused with traditional arrowroot due to the superior gelling qualities, superior taste and texture of Kuzu.
The extraction process still follows the same tried and tested methods, dating back some thousand years. It all begins with the harvest, which commences once the sap has been shown to gather, sufficiently in the roots. Once harvested, the roots are brought down from the mountains to be cleaned. Prior to being hand cut into manageable sized chunks, which are then crushed into smaller fibres. These fibres are then soaked for a pre-specified period, and rinsed, producing a thick paste. Which is repeatedly washed, traditionally with mountain stream water. This careful process produces a white starch which is allowed to dry slowly, in the traditional manner over a 90 day period. It is then broken down into manageable sizes, for the various uses.
Kuzu, is well known throughout China and Japan, and has been used over the centuries for a variety of uses. From foods, to beverages, and even as medicine in teas and tinctures, below is a sample list of some of the culinary applications for this wonder starch.
Cooking with Kuzu
- Dusting items for deep frying, producing a light & crisp coating.
- As a thickening agent
- To produce a glossy texture for sauces & soups.
If you are considering using this wonder starch, and contemplating where to purchase it. Rest assured Kuzu can be found in all good Asian and especially Japanese grocers, and is rather reasonably priced, it is not expensive at all. A little certainly goes along way, with this product, and I am sure you will be suitably impressed. With the thickening qualities and clean taste. Kuzu is a perfect alternative for anyone with a gluten intolerance, or those looking to limit their intake of processed foodstuffs. Consider purchasing a box and experiment at home, I hope you will be as impressed with Kuzu as we have.