food forum

JAPANESE STYLE Vol. 33 No. 2 July 2019

Kuzu Starch

Kuzu Starch

The kuzu vine, or Japanese arrowroot, is a leguminous plant that grows wild in Japan. While Western dictionaries refer to the plant as “kudzu,” the preferred Japanese spelling is kuzu. From ancient times, kuzu has been eaten as food, and has also been consumed for medicinal purposes to maintain health. The traditional method of starch extraction involves cutting up thirty to fifty year-old mature vine roots and crushing them into fiber. These are soaked and rinsed repeatedly in water to extract the starch, which is precipitated and dried. This laborious process takes over a year, producing only seven kilograms of starch from approximately 100 kilograms of raw root—the reason why pure kuzu starch is so rare, and is often sold mixed with other starches, such as potato. Dissolved and heated in water, kuzu starch becomes transparent with a viscous consistency that imparts a delicate, smooth texture. Used extensively in Japanese cuisine, including wagashi traditional Japanese confectionery, it features in dishes such as kuzu-yu, kuzu mixed with water and sugar and heated; kuzu manju, adzuki bean paste wrapped in translucent kuzu “jelly”; and kuzu-kiri, eaten with brown sugar syrup.

Vol. 33

Other articles in this series