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Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

Updated: Apr 16, 2019

Healthy vegan food,Konjac

konjac, vegan yam
konjac, vegan yam

Konjac foods have been consumed for over 1500 years as both a food and a traditional medicine in Asian countries. It contains glucomannan, soluble dietary fiber, and starch, and it is getting popular as a gluten-free vegan food, also known as "yam tofu".

It is originated from asian tropical regions, but its tuber is used mainly in Japan. Noodles made from konnyaku are called shirataki. It tastes good by raw, called sashimi konjac, but it is common to eat by boiling with potatoes and eggs, called oden. In Edo period (samurai era in 19th century), Konnyaku Hyakusen (100 recipes of Konnyaku) was published.

Konjac plants

Konjac is made by mashing and boiling the root of Konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac), or elephant yam, Araseae family same as taro. It is also called Devil’s tongue, as the shape of this tuber looks like devil's tongue, or because it contains rich oxalic acid, which avoid animal damage. It takes around 3 years until the tuber can be used for making konjac.

konjac tuber crop
konjac tuber crop

Processing konjac

The tuber is milled to make flour. Then, boiled  with lime water and cooled in the wooden box to consolidate.

In some areas, konjac is formed in just round-shape like onigiri, rice ball. Sometimes, fruits, seaweeds, and chill are added to make flavor and color. 

Wisdom to utilize ash as coagulant, called "aku"

Traditionally, in order to consolidate the jelly, ash water, called "aku 灰汁" is used instead of lime. There are various materials to make coagulant. Zatsuboku, Timber ash:  the best ash can be made by oak tree or other broad-leaf trees. conifer is not suitable for making ash. Warabai, Straw ash: relatively stable compared to timber ash.Mamegara, bean husk ash: makes konjac tasty, according to villagers

Ash is diluted by water many times, and it takes around 2-3 days to be ready to use. It depends on the ingredient of the ash, and also water content, and strength of the ash (concentration), and there is no recipe to make the harshness from the ash.

"Every year, it is different", said tani san. concentration of aku depends on its material and how it was made. so, farmers taste the aku, and see the concentration.

It is difficult to adjust the amount, and nowadays young people prefer to use lime or sodium carbonate.

how to learn?

There are many places to teach how to make konjac in rural area. Usually villagers make konjac in winter season during December to February. In kansai region, Kyoto, Iga, Nara have several programs about konjac.


Fee for workshop : 5,000 yen / person (Japanese Only without a guide) Duration: 2-3 hours Place to learn: nara, mie, kyoto, and many other places

Guiding service:

Half a day: 16000JPY / group (1~10 people)

Full day : 32000JPY / group (1~10 people)

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