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Why are there both white konjac and black konjac?
In the past it was common for konjac to be made by crushing the fresh roots. Because the roots are easily damaged, this meant that konjac could only be produced near areas where the roots were grown. 200 years ago a method for drying the konjac roots and making them into a powder was devised, and konjac production was made possible in a wider area.

Making this powder is basically accomplished by thinly slicing the roots then drying them and pulverizing them with a mortar and pestle. By doing this the water from the roots is eliminated and the powder can be transported to distant locations. However, by using this process impurities are removed from the konjac resulting in a product which is whitish in color.

There was a time, particularly in Kansai (where konjac made from fresh roots was preferred), when this whitish konjac was not well received by consumers. Seaweed powder was mixed in with the konjac powder to make it darker and this was the beginning of black konjac. White konjac is common in the Kantō area, while black konjac is more common in Kansai. Previously hijiki was used in darkening the konjac, but more recently dark seaweed varieties such as arame and kajime have also become common.

What is the difference between normal block konjac and fresh-root konjac?
Normal block konjac is black in color, whereas fresh-root konjac is a light brown. This is due to the differences between konjac made from konjac powder and konjac made directly from fresh roots.

As was mentioned in the section “Why are there both white konjac and black konjac?”, normal block konjac is made with seaweed powder added to the konjac powder. Also, the method of preparation differs somewhat from maker to maker. We use a method called “ōdo” which is the most popular and has been in use for a long time.

When making fresh-root konjac however, the raw roots are mashed and directly used in the final product. The method of production also differs in that heat is slowly applied to steam the roots starting at a low temperature. Because of this method of slowly steaming the konjac overnight it attains a very high elasticity. Also, by working directly with the fresh roots, the natural flavor of the konjac is brought out and there is less coagulant (calcium hydroxide) than in normal block konjac. But the biggest difference is that if you plant konjac powder, nothing will grow, whereas if you replant konjac roots, they will sprout. It goes without saying that the fresh roots are closer to nature. The fresh roots that we use are specially selected from Gunma prefecture and instantly frozen, allowing us to use them year-round.

Should konjac be cooked to remove bitterness?
It’s often said that konjac should be boiled to remove bitterness, but why? The bitterness comes from calcium hydroxide. Calcium hydroxide plays a very important role in the process of making of konjac. This is the same calcium hydroxide that is often seen written on the back of various products which contain it as a coagulant. It is by means of calcium hydroxide that konjac retains its unique gel-like texture. However, when products contain a high amount of this chemical they take on a strongly alkaline nature and don’t taste very good.

Though it might be a bit time consuming, we think that it’s better to cook the konjac first to remove the bitterness before consuming. Sometimes “no cooking necessary” konjac is sold which contains less calcium hydroxide than traditional konjac, but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain any at all. So if you’d like to have the best tasting konjac, we recommend that you cook it first, even though it takes a little extra time.
Why does konjac change color when cooked with gobō (burdock roots)?
Gobō contains a pigmentation agent called chlorogenic acid. If the gobō isn’t cooked long enough beforehand, or if fresh gobō is cooked together with konjac, the chlorogenic acid in the gobō may react with the alkaline in the konjac, turning it a blue or green color. There is no problem with the quality of the konjac.
Why does the konjac get smaller when I keep it in the refrigerator?
This is due to the konjac loosing water, a phenomenon called water loss. The texture will become a bit firmer and the taste will not be as good, but there’s no problem in eating it. However we recommend that you consume your konjac before any water loss takes place.
What’s the difference between shiratake and konjac noodles?
In the Kantō area during the Edo period, just like today, konjac powder was dissolved in water to make a paste, and then the paste was forced through small holes to produce a noodle shape. This was called “shiratake”. Meanwhile at the same time in the Kansai area, block konjac was being finely cut into a noodle shape, and this was being called “konjac noodles”. So from the beginning they were clearly quite different things. However, nowadays both konjac noodles and shiratake are both made by dissolving konjac powder in water to make a paste and forcing it through small holes, so there’s no way to really tell them apart. “Shiratake” is the term used in Kantō, and “konjac noodles” is the term used in Kansai. Also, when konjac noodles are cut very finely they may be called “shiratake”.
香久山美人Kaguyama Bijin Co., Ltd.
  3-4-27 Minami Yagi-chō, Kashihara, Nara    Tel.0800-200-5289    Fax.0744-22-3134
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