Food Forum
Vol. 33 No. 2  July 2019




In traditional established Japanese restaurants, kuzu starch is a crucial ingredient used for thickening liquids, as it produces a smooth and velvety texture. Kuzu starch produces thick sauces with a mayonnaise-like consistency, without the need for any oil. Soy milk is used here, as it does not separate even with the acidity of tomato, whereas dairy milk would. This sauce is ideal for use in vegetarian recipes.


Tomato passata
Appetizer serves 4

175 kcal Protein 17.7 g Fat 6.2 g (per serving)

  • 8 g / 0.3 oz. kuzu starch*
  • 40 ml / 2 T + 2 t water
  • 20 black tiger or other shrimp or prawns, 450-500 g / approx. 1 lb., peeled and deveined
  • 2 t sake
  • 2 T pure olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 t Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 t chili mix**
  • 200 ml / 6-7 oz. tomato passata, or strained tomatoes
  • 120 ml / 4 oz. soy milk
  • 1/4 t salt; adjust based on salt content of tomato passata
  • 1/3 t grated lemon zest, or other citrus such as grated orange peel
  • Black olives, sliced in rounds


  1. Kuzu starch is lumpy, so break up any chunks. In a small bowl, mix 2 T + 2 t water with the starch. Kuzu starch settles after a while, so mix again just before using in Steps 3 and 4.
  2. Sprinkle the shrimp with sake and mix well. Add in the olive oil, soy sauce and chili mix and stir together.
  3. In a saucepan, mix the tomato passata and soy milk, and set over medium heat. When foam just begins to form, remove from heat, add 2 T of the kuzu starch and water mixture. Return to low heat and stir constantly with a spatula.
  4. Allow to simmer while stirring until the sauce thickens; keep over heat and stir for another 5-7 more minutes. If sauce doesn’t thicken, add more kuzu starch and water mixture little by little. Bring just to the boiling point and then lower heat. Stir in the salt and lemon zest. Turn off heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
  5. Use non-stick aluminum foil*** in a frying pan to cook the shrimp. Preheat the pan, and cook one side of the shrimp for about 2-3 minutes over low heat; turn over and cook the other side for about 1 minute. Cover the pan with a lid and heat for another 1- 2 minutes. To determine doneness, check to see if it is easily pierced by a bamboo skewer. Set aside. Save the cooked shrimp juice to use when serving.
  6. Place the shrimp in a serving dish, pour on any shrimp juice and spoon the tomato-soy milk sauce over them. Serve garnished with slices of black olives.

* Please see Japanese Style article to read about kuzu.
** Chili powder blended with other powdered spices; e.g. cumin, oregano, clove
*** Using non-stick aluminum foil in a frying pan prevents scorching and serves to keep the cooked juices. Alternatively, shrimp can be grilled.

Recipe by Michiko Yamamoto

1 C (U.S. cup) = approx. 240 ml; 1 T = 15 ml; 1 t = 5 ml