Lamb? A word that could make those who defend our local gastronomic traditions turn up their noses. Forgetting that “traditional” dishes, anywhere in the world (and we are no exception) are the result of the integration and sedimentation of customs, tastes and products that come from many parts of the world. Following traders, emigrants, soldiers, travellers, missionaries. No mistrust towards the kuzu, therefore. Also because, in these days following the holidays and which are often troubled by the stomach and intestines, the kuzu reveals itself a simple remedy able to bring relief and digestive peace.
What is that – The kuzu looks like a white flour obtained by grinding the very deep roots of a plant called Pueraria lobata, a climber belonging to the legume family, originally from Japan, but also cultivated in central and eastern China and for some time now also in America. Pueraria is a perennial plant, very resistant (it can live even more than 100 years) and with strong and developed roots. Own the starch is extracted from the roots with which a sort of very soluble and digestible starch is preparede, often aggregated in small white clods.
Who is it good for and why – Per those suffering from digestive imbalances (gastritis, acid stomach, gastroesophageal reflux, major inflammations such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), regular use of kuzu it can effectively contribute to reducing the consumption of medicines and limiting the risk of exacerbation of the disorders. The kuzu, thanks to its buffer capacity, absorbs and neutralizes excess gastric juices, reducing pain and burning that accompany gastritis and gastroduodenal ulcers. In case of gastroesophageal reflux and hiatal hernia (conditions that cause an annoying and, in the long run, dangerous passage of acid juices from the stomach into the esophagus), kuzu prevents this phenomenon and reduces respiratory symptoms (hoarseness, cough, bronchitis) which they are associated with it. Moreover, foods supplemented with kuzu soften stools and make them easily eliminated, helping constipated people and those suffering from anal fissures and hemorrhoids. Finally, a glass of water and kuzu is also useful in case of diarrhea, increasing the consistency of the stools and exerting a disinfectant and anti-inflammatory action on the intestinal mucosa.
Other important properties – More than 50 complex chemical compounds have been found in the Pueraria root, the most important of which are isoflavones (especially, but not limited to, genistein, daidzin, daidzein, and puerarin). Pueraria is in fact one of the main and most important alternatives to soy for the supply of isoflavones, widely used as supplements for the treatment of menopausal disorders. However, isoflavones also have other important properties. They are powerful antioxidants, iinhibit the growth of tumor cells (Cancer Metastasis Reviews 2002;21(3-4):265-80; PLoS One 2011;6(12), are useful in the treatment of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes (there is no contraindication for these subjects), inflammation of the bone and even the disease Parkinson (Phytotherapy Research 2014 Jul;28(7):961-75). In short, a small treasure trove of healthy properties.
How to use it in the kitchen – Kuzu can be used as a thickener for sauces, sweets, ice creams, compotes and to give a velvety texture to soups and vegetable purées. The proportion to use is 5-10 g of kuzu (about 1-2 teaspoons) for every 100 g of liquid but a lot depends on the consistency you want to obtain. In general, the addition of kuzu gives smoothness and creaminess to the preparations. Unlike agar-agar (another good and healthy thickener, made from seaweed) which instead tends to form a rather solid jelly. So if you want to make more consistent preparations (puddings, transparent glazes for tarts, etc.) use l’agar-agar. Kuzu, on the other hand, is used not only to thicken but also to create soft and very pleasant creams to be eaten by the spoonful. On the market, kuzu is found both in powder and in small clods similar to pieces of chalk. In this case, before using it, crush it dry with a bottle or pound it in a kitchen mortar.
Some practical suggestions – The easiest way to use kuzu and take advantage of its beneficial properties in case of constipation, stomach inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux and colitis is as follows. Dissolve a teaspoon of kuzu in a cup of cold water (to avoid lumps), then let it simmer for about 5 minutes. When the liquid becomes clear, the drink is ready.