Also known as voodoo lily, elephant yam and snake palm, and commonplace in Japan, the bulbous underground stem of the konjac plant was in the spotlight in a seven-course dinner prepared by three of L.A.’s most celebrated chefs, including Shibumi’s David Schlosser, at Inn Ann at Japan House over the weekend.
According to the Japan Times, the rubbery gelatinous ingredient has been used in Japan since the 6th century, originally for medicinal purposes. It has no calories, sugar, fat, gluten or carbs. Konnyaku is also referred to by the Japanese as “broom for the stomach” because of its high fiber content and because its chewy texture will help you burn more calories than actually ingesting it. It comes in both block form and as shirataki, a noodle form. It can be found in local Japanese markets such as Mitsuwa Marketplace and, much like rice, comes in brown and white versions.
Inn Ann executive chef Mori Onodera started things off with thinly sliced brown and white konnyaku in a dramatic tabletop yuzu shabu-shabu. That was followed by Joseph Geiskopf of Triniti’s Spring Tidal Pool of Vegetables, with uni and coastal herbs, which was inspired by his recent treks in the green hills of Malibu and local tide pools.
“I was inspired by the rebirth and growth from the wildfires and all the wild living things in Malibu,” Geiskopf told guests in the dining room overlooking raindrops and rainbows on Hollywood Boulevard.
The inspiration for Schlosser’s East-meets-West homemade konjac with beef and kombu tsukudani was slow-simmered beef sauce on pasta.
“Americans are not sure yet if they like the texture of konnyaku, but I love it,” Schlosser contended.
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A refreshing icy yuzu sorbet dusted with sansho pepper from chef Onodera finished off the evening, a smooth contrast to the chewy konjac.
The evening was part of Japan House’s ongoing programs and projects from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help foster awareness and appreciation for Japan around the world by showcasing Japanese art, design, gastronomy, culture and technology.