After the previous vegetarian stint it wasn’t too hard to upgrade (or is that downgrade?) to vegan level. I had bought konnyaku from a ‘rare ingredients’ shopping trip (short grain rice is difficult to find around here 🙁 ); though I am still not convinced of its effect as a ‘diet food’. Mainly containing fibre it’s supposed to make one feel more full and thus suppress the appetite, so I have either cooked it in an appealing way or I am capable of eating beyond the body “I’m full” signals. Oh well.
Top tier contents: spinach namul wrapped in spinach leaves with mustard topping, stir-fried carrot, cabbage dividers, simmered konnyaku and shiitake garnished with sesame seeds
Bottom tier contents: rice with black sesame seeds
Despite the unusual (if you aren’t used to ‘rubbery’ or ‘gelatinous’) texture I find it rather surprising to know that the procedure in making konnyaku is similar to how traditionally-made corn tortillas and corn chips. They are reputably strange smelling – Yvan noted that straight from the pack it smelt ‘fishy’ – though I suspect that might be the hijiki (a seaweed) added to give it its dark colour (the prep step helps remove this odor). I find that the texture reminds me of mushrooms or very tender squid, though one would need to be careful eating it as large portions have been known to choke people – a lesson that you should chew your food properly! In this recipe, I combine shiitake for its complementary texture and added hit of umami. And I guess proving my heritage (or that I’m a complete inconsiderate bastard) : a big garlic clove.
- Half a block of prepared* konnyaku
- 1 large reconstituted shiitake cap
- Soy sauce
- 1 minced clove of garlic
- Toasted sesame oil for frying
- Korean chilli flakes (optional)
- *If you haven't prepared the konnyaku block you must do so first: I salted the surface lightly of the whole block and then let it cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. I then waited for it to cool and cut the half portion to use
- Slice the konnyaku block into thinish (5-8mm) slices along the cross-section.
- Make an incision along the length of each slice (careful not to slice in half) then pull one end through the incision. This step is optional, but it creates the 'knot' appearance. Otherwise, just slice in half lengthways
- Slice the shiitake cap into slices as thin as you can
- Heat a little bit of sesame oil for frying. When the pan is hot (around medium), add the garlic
- When the garlic is fragrant, add the shiitake
- As the garlic is starting to brown a little, set the contents of the pan aside for the moment. Add a little more oil if needed and heat back to temperature before placing the konnyaku slices in the pan (carefully if you made them into 'knots'). Ensure that the heat is set to high to blister the surface.
- Flip the slices over and heat a for a minute before returning the mushroom and garlic then add some soy sauce - about 1-2 tablespoons
- After around 2 minutes, add around 1 tablespoon of mirin and add the chilli flakes if using. Stirfry (carefully) for around 3-5 minutes or until the liquids have been absorbed