Plain ita konnyaku has no distinctive flavor of its own and is used more for its texture, which is like a firm, chewy gelatin. Like tofu, konnyaku can also absorb the flavors of ingredients it is cooked with. Slices of ita konnyaku are traditionally simmered with oden and other stews, stir-fried with meat and vegetables, grilled, or served with dipping sauces. Because konnyaku is calorie-free and rich in fiber, it is often considered a health or diet food. It also shows up as a filling meat alternative in vegetarian meals; Zen priests ate konnyaku as early as the 1100s.
Up until now, we have generally eaten konnyaku in its plain, sliced form and must admit it isn't our favorite dish (although it is refreshing for summer). However, we are curious to follow our friend's suggestion and grill slices with a miso-based sauce and sesame seeds. Here are a few other recipes, and we'd love to hear any readers' suggestions!
• Konnyaku and Atsuage (Tofu) Kinpira, from Just Hungry
• Konnyaku no miso ni (konnyaku simmered with miso), from Obachan's Kitchen
• Creamy Tofu Sauce for Sweet Potatoes and Konnyaku, from Serious Eats
• Gyuudon (beef bowl) bento with konnyaku, from Just Bento
Find blocks of ita konnyaku packed in water in the refrigerated section of Japanese markets. To use, open the package (a fishy odor is normal), drain, and rinse under cool water. Parboil before cooking or serving. Any unused portion may be covered with fresh water and stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Dried Kombu
(Images: Emily Ho, House Foods America)