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What Are Kuzu Noodles?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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Kuzu noodles are noodles made from the starchy root of the kuzu plant, also known as kudzu. These starchy noodles resemble rice sticks or sai fun noodles, tending to be thin and transparent, and they can be used in a wide range of dishes. Some Japanese foods call specifically for kuzu noodles, while other Asian noodle dishes can be made with kuzu as well. These specialty noodles are available from importers and Japanese markets.

Kudzu is a perennial climbing vine with bright flower stalks and simple, deciduous leaves. Many people in the West regard kudzu largely as a pest, but the plant also has food value. The leaves and flowers, for example, can both be used like vegetables, and the roots can be rinsed and pulped to make a flour which can be used to create the noodles. If you're wondering about the different between “kudzu” and “kuzu,” kudzu is derived from kuzu, which is the Japanese name for this plant.

The starch from kuzu roots is also used as a general thickener and geller in Japanese food. Its starchy properties can help to firm up sauces and jellies to a desired texture, and since it sets in a transparent color, it will not change the color of the food. The roots are also fairly bland, meaning that the starch can be used in delicately flavored dishes without overpowering them. Kuzu flour is also available in Asian markets, along with other unique Asian flours.

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Kuzu noodles are long, thin strips which are translucent when dried and totally transparent when wet. To prepare kuzu noodles, most cooks pour boiling water over them and soak them for 10 minutes before draining and rinsing them. The noodles can tend to stick together, so they should be tossed into a stir fry or soup as soon as they are rinsed; the noodles can also be used as a side dish, much like rice.

These delicate noodles can be hard to find in some parts of the world. Other fine Asian noodles are made from ingredients like mung bean sprouts and rice, and these are more readily available. If a recipe calls for kuzu noodles, you can use these noodles as substitutes if no kuzu are available. You might also want to check with health food stores for kuzu noodles if you have no Asian markets in your area, since specialized Asian ingredients sometimes turn up at these sorts of establishments.

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Bakersdozen
Post 6

@wander - your advice is invaluable. I first tried these Kuzu noodles at a friend's dinner party and they were not nice.

I do have a bit of a thing about texture, in particular I dislike mushy, slimy food, so I honestly thought it was just me. It was only after I ate them again in an Asian restaurant that I realized they can actually taste good!

widget2010
Post 5

@recapitulate- actually, there are books about all the uses of kudzu, including making your own powder and, I assume, noodles. I bet if you looked into it you could find a lot more.

I think this is interesting because I knew that kudzu had lots of uses, like soap and other household products, and I even read that it could be a potential source of ethanol, but I had no idea it had actually been a food even before that.

recapitulate
Post 4

I know kudzu is a huge annoyance in the south, although they have found a lot of uses for it. I wonder if anyone has tried to use kudzu to make these noodles in the US?

burcinc
Post 3

@wander-- You're right, I've made the mistake of boiling them too much and making them mushy as well. But when you learn a few good tips about cooking them, it's nothing that can't be overcome. I personally think it's worth the effort because Kuzu noodles (also called Kuzukiri) are very light and healthy. They don't cause heaviness and bloating like some other starches do.

I soak the noodles in hot water for just a few minutes and then simmer it along with the sauce for a few minutes and that's it. I also never make huge amounts of kuzu noodles because they need to be eaten right away. Or else, like you said, it will get too soft and mush waiting in the sauce. That's why I make enough for that meal only and finish it up.

drtroubles
Post 2

Noodles that are clear like kuzu noodles are usually referred to as glass noodles because of how easily you can see through them. These glass noodles are really popular in Asia, though I find you don't see them much over in North America unless you go to a specialty store that stocks lots of Asian foods.

I personally think kuzu noodles don't really have much of a taste so I generally avoid using them as a side dish. One of my favorite things to use them for is in a cold broth dish that is made mostly out of mushrooms. This dish is great in the summertime and I find that the kuzu noodles have a great texture when cold.

wander
Post 1

Kuzu noodles are an interesting food to try, but unless you are a pretty good chef I would steer clear of trying to make a dish with them yourself the first time.

Kuzu noodles really don't have any flavor of their own, but are great at absorbing all of the flavors around them. For this reason they can be difficult to use because unless your cooking timing is perfect they can absorb too much moisture and they can go from a great jelly texture to mush. Mushy kuzu noodles are quite frankly disgusting and since these noodles can be pricey and hard to find you don't want to ruin an entire dish due to poor timing.

I would suggest going to a Japanese restaurant and trying their kuzu noodles first. Once you learn what texture they are supposed to be it becomes much easier to prepare them yourself.

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