How do you thicken gravy, make a pudding, pie filling or fruit sauce, and also help relieve indigestion using Macrobiotic friendly ingredients?
Well, get yourself a big bag of magical white powdery stuff...NO, I don't mean THIS KIND of white stuff. :)
I mean the kind of white powder that you'll find in the "odds & ends & weird ingredients" aisle at your health foods store. It's called Kuzu!
MM: All About Kuzu (Kudzu)
Macrobiotics' Secret Ingredient:
What is it?Kuzu (Kudzu) is a vine that grows in Asia, and is also known as Japanese Arrowroot. Thanks to Wikipedia, I finally understand why there are multiple spellings of the same word: The Japanese word for the plant is kuzu (クズ or 葛), but when the word was first put into latin script (romanized) it appeared as kudzu. Same plant, same meaning, two ways to spell it: I'll go with kuzu.
Traditional & Medicinal Qualities & Uses
Both the roots & the flowers of this vine have been used for centuries in Chinese Medicine & in Japan to treat many health ailments, including but not limited to: headaches, diarrhea, colds, rashes, migraines, stomach problems & indigestion, the flu, hangovers and even hayfever!
Because of the isoflavones (especially isoflavone puerarin) and other plant compounds in Kuzu, it can help relieve many other complaints, such as undesirable menopausal issues & hormone imbalances. Kuzu also appears to have cardiovascular benefits: it decreases blood pressure, and can even assist with circulation within the heart itself.
Kuzu has been used historically in the treatment of alcoholism (it can suppress alcohol cravings) and irregular heartbeat, and in China it has been used when giving treatment for strokes. It is even said to have antioxidant & anti-viral activity, and can help with blood sugar levels & insulin resistance.
In my understanding, Macrobiotics would classify kuzu as having a YANG effect: a downward & inwards moving energy --> perfect for helping the lower intestine and strengthening digestion!
Kuzu root is also an extremely alkalizing food. Outside of cooking (see section below), kuzu is most often used in Macrobiotics as an alkalizing remedy for health issues that are caused by over-acidity, such as indigestion caused by over-consumption of acidic foods and/or overeating, and even cancer as it is a highly acidic condition.
In most Macrobiotic books you'll find a recipe for some sort of an umeboshi & kuzu healing drink. Sometimes it is made with teas, sometimes with shoyu (soy sauce), and sometimes with ginger! I haven't personally tried it myself yet, but I do recommend consulting a qualified health care practitioner before undertaking any new remedy.
But, if you are curious, Here's a simple recipe for ume-sho-kuzu with cute pictures!
**please note: I have more commonly seen this recipe with a smaller amount of umeboshi, such as this one, but I just loved the pics with the first link.
Kuzu starch (powder / rock chunks) is used in cooking to thicken liquids! You can use it like you would cornstarch or arrowroot powder. But, unlike corn starch that may thin if the liquid cools, kuzu just keeps getting thicker & thicker. I like it because it's a more natural alternative that has undergone much less processing than regular ol' starches. It is the perfect ingredient to use when making gravy, soups & dessert!
Here are the directions on the back of the package:
I have used kuzu as a thickener in many dishes, including:
- the broth when I make sesame veggie soba noodles
- my mushroom leek gravy
- the custard filling in my macrobiotic fruit tart
And one of the most delicious treats I tried in Japan was Kudzu Mochi.
Expect a delicious new dessert recipe that uses kuzu up on the blog mid-week, so please check back soon <3
Have you ever tried Kuzu in cooking, or in a remedy?
I'd love to hear about your experiences!