Kuzu - Japanese Wild Arrowroot
Kuzu is one of the world's largest vegetable roots and is often called "the wonder root." Kuzu is more revered than ginseng in Japan. Roots are the focal points of a plant's energy. This is why roots have always occupied a special place in man's diet, as well as in his medicine chest. Kuzu is truly a miracle food. Use as a natural thickening agent in cooking and as an effective restorative drink and digestive aid. Kuzu is revered in Japan, uniquely honored in both high cuisine and folk medicine.
Mitoku Organic Kuzu is naturally derived from the root of one of Japan's most vigorous wild plants using an age old traditional process that takes over 90 days. The result is a premium thickening agent with a delightfully smooth texture. Kuzu root is the perfect all-natural thickener for soups, sauces and desserts. Mitoku Kuzu is 100% pure and absolutely no potato or other starch is added, as is common with other brands on the market.
The town of Akizuki is blessed with an abundance of pure water and a cold dry winter, ideal for processing kuzu. Kuzu is a special starch derived from the roots of one of Japan's most tenacious and vigorous wild plants. Here, for 5 generations, the Hirohachido family has been making some of the finest kuzu in all Japan.
Akizuki kuzu is completely hand-made by a centuries-old process. The wild kuzu is harvested in mid-winter, when the energy is concentrated in the roots. The roots are crushed, repeatedly washed to remove impurities, then the white starch is naturally dried for over 90 days. The result is kuzu unmatched in purity, with superior jelling ability and a incredibly smooth texture and delicate flavor. Use Akizuki organic wild Kuzu to thicken sauces, soups, and broth, puddings and pie fillings.
USES: Use Kuzu to thicken gravy, soups, sweet and savory sauces, glazes, puddings, and pie fillings.
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Cooking with Kuzu
Kuzu is unsurpassed as a thickening agent. It produces sparkling, translucent sauces; adds a shiny gloss to soups; and provides a smooth texture for sauces and gravies with no starchy or interfering taste. Try using kuzu as a thickener in sauces and gravies, and for added body in soups and noodle broths. Vegetables and fish that have been dusted with kuzu powder and then deep-fried have a light, crisp coating. Since kuzu helps balance the acidity of sweets, it is ideal in desserts such as kantens and puddings, and it is the perfect ingredient in icings, shortcake toppings, and pie fillings.
Store kuzu in a sealed jar. When you buy kuzu, the powder will be in small chunks. Crush the chunks with the back of a spoon before measuring. Use approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of kuzu per cup of liquid for sauces and gravies and 2 tablespoons per cup for jelling liquids. For most preparations, completely dissolve the measured amount of kuzu in a little cold water, then add it to the other ingredients near the end of cooking time. Gently bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly while the kuzu thickens and becomes translucent.
Kuzu should not be confused with arrowroot, potato starch, and corn starch. Corn starch, in particular, is not recommended because it is highly processed and treated with chemical bleaches and toxic extracting agents. Potato starch is also mass-produced, and chemicals are used to accelerate the extraction process. While arrowroot is made by a simple, natural process, kuzu is far superior in jelling strength, taste, texture, and healing qualities.
Makes 2 Cups
Unlike most sauces or gravies, this simple recipe contains little oil and no flour, yet it has a full, delicate flavor and pleasing texture. Serve over grains, vegetables, and noodles.
2 cups Shiitake Dashi (see Shiitake recipes)
1 teaspoon Mitoku Toasted Sesame Oil
1 small onion, minced
1/2 small bay leaf
1 teaspoon Masu 100% Sea Water Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Mitoku Organic Shoyu or Mitoku Yaemon Organic Tamari
1/2 tablespoon Mitoku Mikawa Organic Mirin
3 tablespoons crushed Mitoku Akizuki Kuzu
Prepare stock (dashi). Heat the oil in a medium-sized frying pan or small saucepan. Add onion and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add stock, bay leaf, and salt. Gently simmer together 10 to 15 minutes. Add mirin and shoyu or tamari, and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Thoroughly dissolve kuzu in 3 tablespoons cold water and slowly add it to the sauce while stirring briskly. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 to 2 minutes. Keep gravy hot (not boiling) until serving.
Makes about 3 cups
This light fruit dessert is delicious when eaten as is. It can also be used to dress up other simple desserts. It makes a great topping for vanilla or lemon pudding, pies or tarts with a vanilla-pudding base, shortcake, vanilla cake, pancakes, and waffles. This fruit sauce is a scrumptious filling for crepes.
1 cup apple juice
1/3-1/2 cup Mitoku Rice Malt (use smaller amount with sweet fruits, larger amount with tart ones)
Pinch Masu 100% Sea Water Sea Salt
2 1/2 cups sliced or whole fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, nectarines, pitted cherries, etc.)*
2 tablespoons crushed Mitoku Kuzu
Combine juice, rice malt, and salt in a saucepan. Add fruit (if appropriate) and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Remove from heat. Thoroughly dissolve kuzu or arrowroot in 2 tablespoons cool water and add to fruit mixture while stirring briskly. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until mixture returns to a simmer and thickens. If using fruit that does not require cooking, place fruit in a ceramic or glass bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Mix gently and cool in refrigerator. If fruit is already mixed in, transfer contents of the pot to a bowl and cool. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Refrigerated in a covered container, this fruit sauce will keep for several days.
*Cut larger fruits into small bite-sized pieces. Delicate, tender fruits such as strawberries and raspberries should not be cooked. Ripe nectarines do not need cooking, but firmer fruits such as blueberries, cherries, and apples should be simmered with the juice.
Taguchi-san's Sesame Tofu
This rich, creamy side dish is a favorite recipe of Kazuhiro Taguchi, president of Hirohachido Kuzu Company. The appearance and texture of the finished dish closely resembles silken tofu.
1 cup crushed Mitoku Kuzu
6 cups spring water
1 cup tahini
Mitoku Organic Shoyu, to taste
Peeled and finely grated ginger to garnish, or sprinkle a pinch Mitoku Dried Ginger Powder
In a medium-sized pan, thoroughly dissolve kuzu in the water. Mix in tahini. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble, stir briskly and vigorously to prevent lumping and to assure a smooth texture. Continue stirring vigorously approximately 5 minutes.
Pour into a casserole or similar container and chill until firm. Slice into small sections. Sprinkle shoyu (to taste) over individual servings. Top with a dab of grated ginger or a sprinkle of dried ginger powder, and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
Vanilla pudding and the flavor variations suggested are delicious when eaten plain or when topped with fresh fruit or Fruit Sauce. These puddings also make great fillings for pies, parfaits, trifles, cream puffs, and shortcake.
2 cups Almond Milk or plain rice milk
1 cup Mitoku Rice Malt
1/8 teaspoon Masu 100% Sea Water Sea Salt
2 level tablespoons Mitoku Kanten Flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed Mitoku Kuzu
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine 1 3/4 cups almond milk or rice milk, rice malt, and salt in a small saucepan. Sprinkle in kanten flakes and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 1 minute while stirring. Thoroughly dissolve kuzu in remaining 1/4 cup milk and add to saucepan while stirring briskly. Return to a simmer and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and divide among four small dessert cups. Chill, uncovered, until firm (about 2 hours).
Lemon Pudding - Add 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons lightly grated lemon zest along with the vanilla.
Berry Pudding: - Follow directions for Vanilla Pudding except blend 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries or strawberries with the almond or soymilk before heating, and reduce amount of vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon.
This simple dessert provides a warm, sweet ending to fall or winter meals.
3 ripe but firm pears, halved and cored
1 cinnamon stick and several whole cloves
1 cup organic raisins
pinch Masu 100% Sea Water Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Mitoku Mikawa Organic Mirin
1 tablespoon Mitoku Kuzu
chopped, toasted walnuts, for garnish (optional)
Arrange pears in a single layer on the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan. Pour in a mixture of 3 parts apple juice and 1 part water to almost cover the pears. Add the spices, raisins, and salt and simmer, covered, until pears are tender. Remove pears with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Remove the cinnamon and cloves from the liquid, return it to the pan, and cook down to 1 cup. Add mirin. Thoroughly dissolve kuzu in 1 tablespoon cold water and add to cider while stirring briskly. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until kuzu thickens and becomes translucent. Simmer 1 minute more. Immediately serve pears in small bowls with sauce ladled over the top and, if served, a sprinkle of toasted, chopped walnuts.
As a remedy, kuzu root is used in two ways: as powdered starch and as whole dried root. Kuzu starch remedies can be used to treat minor indigestion; some experts use it to treat colds and minor aches and pains as well (eating lots of foods made with kuzu starch can have the same effects and is considered good preventive medicine). Teas can be used when a different type of medicine is needed: for chronic headaches, stiff shoulders, colitis, sinus troubles, tonsillitis, respiratory ailments, hangovers, allergies (especially hay fever), bronchial asthma, and skin rashes.
In his book Healing Ourselves (Avon Books, 1973), holistic health practitioner Naboru Muramoto recommends a drink called kuzu cream (see recipe) for colds, general body pains, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Kuzu cream is also recommended for neutralizing stomach acidity and for relaxing tight muscles. When made with the addition of ginger juice and minced umeboshi (salt-pickled plum), the drink is especially potent. The ginger aids digestion and circulation while the salt plum neutralizes lactic acid and eliminates it from the body.
Kuzu cream and other remedies are made using kuzu root starch while medicinal kuzu teas are usually made using pieces of the whole kuzu root, which contains more water-soluble medicinal flavonoids, some of which are lost during starch production. Kuzu root tea (kakkon) is found in herbal shops and some natural foods stores and frequently contains several other medicinal herbs including ginger, licorice, and cinnamon.
Stomach-Settling Kuzu Cream
Makes 1 cup
This rejuvenating tonic is most effective when taken about one hour before meals (preferably in the morning when the stomach is empty). This recipe makes a thick, pudding-like cream. If you'd prefer to make a thinner drink, reduce the amount of kuzu to one rounded teaspoon.
1 1/2 tablespoons Mitoku Akizuki Kuzu
1 umeboshi plum, pitted and minced, or 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice (finely grate ginger root and squeeze to extract juice) or use a pinch Mitoku Dried Ginger Root Powder
1/2-1 teaspoon Mitoku Organic Shoyu (optional)
In a small enamel or nonmetallic saucepan, thoroughly dissolve kuzu starch in 1 cup cold water. Add umeboshi and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. As soon as the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, stir constantly until kuzu thickens and becomes translucent. Gently simmer 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Add ginger juice and, if desired, shoyu to taste.
For a quick pick-me-up or for treating small children, good tasting kuzu beverages are ideal. In his book Macrobiotic Home Remedies, macrobiotic teacher Michio Kushi recommends Apple-Kuzu Drink for constipation, fever and to stimulate appetite. Apple-Kuzu drink's soothing effect is also used to calm down hyperactive children. When making this tonic for young children, replace 1/2 cup of the apple juice with water.
1 cup apple juice
small pinch Masu 100% Sea Water Sea Salt (optional)
1 rounded teaspoon Mitoku Akizuki Kuzu (crush chunks with back of spoon before measuring)
1-2 tablespoons cold water for dissolving kuzu
Heat the apple juice and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat. Thoroughly dissolve the kuzu in water, add it to the juice while stirring, then return the pot to the burner. Stir constantly until kuzu thickens and becomes translucent. Simmer a minute more, then remove from heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.