What is kudzu?
kudzu is a pervasive common wild plant, which can be seen everywhere in Japan, however, there are long tradition of using kudzu plants as cooking starch or jelling agent. The starch is processed from kudzu roots, and its fiber is also used for weaving clothes. It is first appeared in manyoshu, a collection of premed compiled in the early 7th century.
It is reported that the first commercial kudzu powder processor was established in Nara in around 1610, in Edo period. Since then, surrounded by deep mountains with clean water, Yoshino area in Nara prefecture, located in the south of Kyoto, has been the most famous place to produce kudzu powder. Approximately 40% of kudzu in Japan is indeed processed in Nara prefecture. There are 4 major producers of Kudzu in Nara, located in Uda city, Yoshino town, and in Gojo city.
Now, kudzu is also known as a good resource to utilize its starch among vegan and macrobiotic chefs. Sometimes we organize kudzu tour to Yoshino especially by the request of chefs or those who engaged in food products development.
private kudzu lesson in Yoshino by Nakai shunpudo.
Nakai shunpudo is located in the Yoshino mountain, and the kudzu master, Mr. Nakai took us to his private cooking room in the basement floor.
The lesson starts by learning about biological aspects of the kudzu wild plants.
Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is a vary pervasive plant, which can be seen everywhere is Japan. The plant is even considered as invasive foreign spices in America.
When is the suitable season for processing kudzu powder? How to process, and eat? What is the difference between honkudzu and kudzu? Although most of Japanese people heard about kudzu, these questions could be difficult to answer.
After the lecture, we started cooking lesson, observing how starch absorbing water, gelatinisation process... learning 3 different recipes, kudzu kiri (noodle), kudzu mochi (dumpling) and kudzuyu (drink).
Other place to learn about kudzu and vegan foods
Currently there is no place to see the process of making kudzu powder, however, Morino kudzu hompo, one of the oldest commercial kudzu processors in Nara has a museum to exhibit the traditional kudzu producing process, and also preserves 200 species of wild medicinal plants in the garden.
Organic restaurant Hanasaka, located in Yoshino mountain provides vegan dishes.(reservations needed)
vegan lunch courseorganic cafe Hanasaka