Ready for this jelly? Firm, chewy and undeniably healthy, this ingredient is an easy addition to your diet—and your body will thank you.

P12_01Devil’s tongue. Voodoo lily. Snake palm. Elephant yam. There’s a Japanese superfood that goes by many names. Have you tried it yet?

Konjac, or konnyaku as it is known in Japan, is a gelatin-like substance made from the ground our of a perennial plant native to parts of Asia. Mild in taste, grey in colour and gummy in texture, it is most commonly encountered as an ingredient in hot dishes like oden and sukiyaki—and its vast and varied health bene ts do not go unnoticed.

The earliest known use of konjac dates all the way back to the Han dynasty in China, nearly 2,000 years ago. Hailed for its medicinal properties, the plant was originally used to treat asthma, coughs and other breathing problems as well as skin disorders and infections. Fast forward several centuries and konjac became known for its healing properties in Japan, reaching prime popularity during the Edo period. By 1846 books such as Konnyaku Hyakusen (100 Recipes for Konnyaku) were being published due to high demand for the so-called superfood.

So just what types of nutritional powers are we talking about? Well, konjac’s claim to fame is glucomannan—a dietary bre known to combat obesity, high cholesterol, constipation, diabetes and acne, among other conditions. At 70% to 80% glucomannan content, konjac is simply the richest source of soluble bre available in nature. And since most of us could stand to add more bre to our diets, it goes without saying that this jiggly jelly does the trick.

Before it can be consumed and appreciated for its many healthy properties, konjac must undergo some labour-intensive processing between garden and kitchen table. Traditionally, after growing for two or three years to reach maximum glucomannan potential, the plant is dug up and its corm (the underground stem or base) is peeled, sliced and laid out to dry in the sun for several days before being ground into our and subsequently added to water and boiled to form a paste. The paste rms up and voila—the result is a rm but chewy and malleable jelly that can be cut into desired shapes or sliced thinly into ito konnyaku (“thread konjac,” or konjac noodles).

Today’s modern technology has sped up the process and konjac can be found easily and abun- dantly in several forms—mainly cubes, noodles and cup-sized treats—in both Japanese grocery stores and Asian supermarkets internationally. The healthy snack recently gained notoriety in the US as a delicious but potentially dangerous treat for children. Sold as sweetened jelly in small cups, konjac differs from other gelatin-based snacks in that it doesn’t begin to break down or melt upon contact with saliva—so be ready to chew, chew and chew some more in order to safely consume the sweet treat. If you’re not quite ready to incorporate it into your diet, konjac also makes a handy addition to your skin-care routine. Visit your local makeup store to pick up a konjac sponge and get exfoliating!