People seem to enjoy naming foods after the devil. There’s devil’s food cake, devilled eggs, devilled ham, chicken fra diavolo (Italian for “brother devil”) … But would you eat something called devil’s tongue?
This demonic moniker (“demoniker?”) can actually refer to either of two rarely eaten vegetables: Dominican red savina peppers, which, as their nickname implies, are hot as, erm, heck, and konjac, an Asian herb most popular in Japan.
Konjac, pronounced like “Cognac,” is known by any of several names, including konnyaku, voodoo lily, snake palm, elephant yam, and of course, devil’s tongue. It takes its sinister nickname from the dark reddish-purple spadix that juts from the center of the plant, much like a pointy, lurid tongue.
In Asia, the corm, or bulb, of the plant, is a popular ingredient in many dishes. While the inside resembles a potato, the exterior looks more like a dragon’s claw. It is traditionally pulverized into a flour that can be made a kind of patty popularly known as yam cakes. Konyakku cakes come in blocks, similar to tofu, and are eaten in much the same way. They don’t have much flavor of their own, rather taking on the flavor of any sauces used on them, but are enjoyed for their firm, spring texture. These patties can be fileted and eaten as sashimi, formed into gelatinous balls, or pressed into noodles, called shirataki.
Konjac is slightly savory, very low in calories, but high in fiber, so it is filling and prized by those who are watching their weight or cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of calcium, protein, amino acids, phosphorus, zinc, and glucomannan, a molecular compound that has been shown to absorb cholesterol and bile acid, reduce blood pressure, and promote cardiovascular health.
Both konnyaku cakes and shirataki noodles can be found at most Asian grocers, or in the international section of some grocery stores.
Here are a couple of recipes to give your tongue a taste of this “devil”:
1 konnyaku cake, sliced
4 asparagus, sliced lenghtwise
1 tbs vinegar
1/2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp miso
1/2 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs spring onion, finely chopped
Combine all dressing ingredients into a small bowl and mix well. Rinse konnyaku with lemon juice. Place sliced asparagus on a plate with konnyaku slices and seaweed on top. Roll the seaweed and asparagus with konnyaku and dip it in the sauce.
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