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The plant known in Japanese as kuzu goes by many names depending on its location globally: East Asian arrowroot, Japanese arrowroot, Chinese arrowroot, and more generally, kudzu.

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What Is Kuzu?

Kuzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) is the Japanese name for the kudzu plant and the starch derived from the kudzu root. Kuzu is native to both China and Japan and is a member of the pea family. Though the vine itself is quite invasive and survives by covering other plants and thus robbing them of a light source, the starch contained in its large roots is valued throughout parts of Asia for its culinary and medicinal properties.

What Are the Benefits of Kuzu?

One of the primary benefits of kuzu root lies in its naturally high levels of flavonoids, which is a compound found in many fruits and vegetables full of antioxidants. Consuming the nutrient dense kuzu plant has a number of health benefits including potentially reducing cold and flu symptoms and aiding in indigestion.

How to Cook With Kuzu

Once processed into a soft white starch, you can incorporate kuzu into teas (kuzuyu) or mixed with warm water into a simple porridge. To use kuzu starch, hydrate the powder in cold water or an otherwise cold liquid before adding to stir-fries, Japanese curry, or desserts. Here are a few other ways to cook with the popular thickener:

  • Add to sweets. Kuzu is an ingredient in many traditional Japanese sweets, including kuzumochi, a type of jellied cake similar to ones made from glutinous rice flour, and kuzukiri, a boiled kudzu powder presentation cut into thin, jellied strips eaten with a dark, sweet syrup called kuromitsu. You can serve kuzu with sweet red beans in kuzu-dama, a red bean cake coated with kuzu powder. Manjū, a red bean paste, is topped with a jellied layer of kuzu.
  • As a starch substitute. Kuzu and kudzu starch are primarily used as a gluten-free thickening agent, lending a velvety smooth texture similar to rice flour, cornstarch, or potato starch. You can use kuzu in place of potato starch in ankake, an unctuous sauce served with stir-fries or roasted vegetables.
  • In savory dishes. Kuzu is also the star of savory dishes like goma dofu, a kuzu pudding with the consistency and appearance of tofu, typically served with black sesame paste.
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