Human Flower Project
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Konyaku—Devil and Angel
From the tuber of a garish plant, native to Vietnam, comes a healthy wonder ingredient of Asian cuisine.
A patch of Voodoo lilies
Photo: University of Connecticut
Amorphophallus konjac goes by several unflattering names in English (Devil’s tongue, Voodoo lily). It puts on quite a bloom-spectacle, with a stalk 2-3 feet high and a flower so hideously stinky it can draw a crowd better than Metallica; Voodoo lily fans just happen to be insects.
Correspondent Tracy Tanji clued us in today that in Japan, the angelic properties of Devil’s tongue are well known and, in fact, savored. “We use this plant for ‘Konyaku,’ for dishes,” and to good effect, Tracy writes.
The University of Connecticut reports that “cone-yuk” (as it’s pronounced in Japan) is used as a thickener for soups and stews, and as the base ingredient for noodles. “The main substance in konjac is called Glucomannan which has a low caloric content but is rich in dietary fiber. Clinical study indicates Glucomannan may be responsible for weight reduction and reducing cholesterol in those who have high cholesterol. It is eaten in Japan to clean the digestive tract of toxins.”
from the tuber of Devil’s tongue
As you’d imagine there are quite a number of firms selling konyaku supplements and extolling its many benefits. We don’t vouch for these claims or products—or necessarily plan to use them ourselves—but find them of interest as human flower projects.
For those who’d rather grow than swallow, here’s a bold gardener with experience raising Devil’s tongue. S/he writes, “I had planned to allow it to continue blooming in the house. After all, just how powerful could the legendary stench be. Today, March 15, I was working near the tuber and still there was no odor. At noon there was a mild odor and I figured I could tolerate this. I laughed at all the fussy folks who grumble about the odor.
“By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my eyes were tearing. I wondered if it was really the plant or if a dead horse had been dug up in my yard. After two hours of using an industrial exhaust fan, the odor lingers. Tonight the inflorescence is spending the night in the garage.”
Some readers with cholesterol problems might like to give the angelic devil’s tongue a try: here is a site with several recipes. Tracy, and others who’ve cooked with this knockout plant, we especially welcome your suggestions for how to use konyaku in the kitchen.
To begin, we’ve never met a spring-roll we didn’t lilke. So here’s a how-to for harumaki-konyaku spring roll…