The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

by Chisato

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.

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

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.

 
The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountainphoto: kudzu gashi, Kurokawa honke, in Uda 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 art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

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.

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

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).

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountainkuzukiri

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountainkuzuyu

 

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.

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountain

Organic restaurant Hanasaka, located in Yoshino mountain provides vegan dishes.(reservations needed)

The art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountainvegan lunch courseThe art of Kudzu, cooking vegan starch, kudzu powder in Yoshino mountainorganic cafe Hanasaka


23 Dec 2017


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Contact Chisato

Hello. I am Chisato living in Uda city, south part of Nara.

I completed master degree of organic agriculture in the Netherlands in 2011.
Especially, my specialization is agriculture, anthropology and food culture.
I often travel around rural villages in japan for my research on traditional knowledge, ethnobotany and local cuisine, "kyodo ryori".

My style of guiding is "experience the local communities"; visiting the ingredients where it grows, listening to the stories of local life, where generations have lived.

My town Uda city is famous as a medicinal plant town. In the historical record, it is reported that Empress Suiko visited Uda to hunt medicinal herbs (AD611). Developed as a castle town, the city is designated as one of the Important Preservation Districts. The streets have some facilities associated with medicine and herbs, including Morino Kyuyakuen (medicinal herb garden) and Kusuri-no-Yakata (the museum of medicine). I am learning traditional knowledge of wild herbs from local villagers.

I try my best to organize a trip with unique experience for you in the off-the-beaten rural villages, especially in Kyoto and Nara. Please let me know your special interests, and I will suggest your trip schedule, such as cooking with locals, visit farmers, or stay at a farmhouse.


Example Theme:
- tea tour (harvesting and processing tea, tea house, matcha poder making, tea museum in Kyoto)
- traditional handicrafts (visit workshops, pottery making experience, kiln in hidden valley)
- culinary experience (food processing workshop such as tofu, soba, yuba, somen noodle, traditional knowledge of food preservation)
- fermented food products (learning how to make sake, shoyu, miso, amazake, pickle, nattou, umeboshi by yourself)
- plant and ethno-ecology (sansai wild plant harvesting and cooking)
- learning rural livelihood (charcoal making, weaving trees, paper making from mulberry plant, silk worm, visit to temple of plant medicine)
- temple stay (meditation, shojin ryori at mount koya)


IMPORTANT:
Please inquire at least 1 month before the tour departure date, when it is totally customized tour.
Please note that spring (March-April) and autumn (Septenmer-October) are peak travelling season in Japan, and it may not possible to offer special interest tours.
I recommend to reserve accommodations at least 2 months before your travel (half year before during peak travelling season).

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