In the East, kuzu, a member of the legume family, has enjoyed an excellent reputation and has been part of the cuisine of China and Japan for more than two thousand years. The starch that makes kuzu an outstanding jelling and thickening agent in cooking is partly responsible for its medicinal action. Some of kuzu's complex starch molecules enter the intestines and relieve the discomfort caused by overacidity, bacterial infection, and - in the case of diarrhea - excess water. In many cases of abdominal aching and intestinal irritation, a bowl of kuzu gruel or pudding brings quick relief. particularly for children who often do not like the taste of over-the-counter stomach medications.
Kuzu is unsurpassed as a thickening agent. It produces sparkling, translucent sauces; adds a shiny gloss to soups; and provides a smooth texture for sauces and gravies with no starchy or interfering taste. Try using kuzu as a thickener in sauces and gravies, and for added body in soups and noodle broths. Vegetables and fish that have been dusted with kuzu powder and then deep-fried have a light, crisp coating. Since kuzu helps balance the acidity of sweets, it is ideal in desserts such as kantens and puddings, and it is the perfect ingredient in icings, shortcake toppings, and pie fillings.
Store kuzu in a sealed jar. When you buy kuzu, the powder will be in small chunks. Crush the chunks with the back of a spoon before measuring. Use approximately 1-1/2 tablespoons of kuzu per cup of liquid for sauces and gravies and 2 tablespoons per cup for jelling liquids. For most preparations, completely dissolve the measured amount of kuzu in a little cold water, then add it to the other ingredients near the end of cooking time. Gently bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly while the kuzu thickens and becomes translucent.