Elephant yam, devil’s tongue, snake palm, voodoo lily—whatever you call it, the konjac plant has become a trending topic in Korea as of late. By processing the root of the konjac plant, one can make konjac flour (for noodles), konjac jelly (a suitable replacement for gelatin), and konjac soluble fiber (a dietary supplement).
With diet culture being the norm in South Korea, it is easy to understand why konjac products have suddenly begun appearing in most grocery stores, and even in convenience stores. The touted health benefits of the plant are immense, and include diabetes management, weight loss, improvement in cholesterol levels, healthier skin, and wound healing. Konjac products are particularly appealing because they are low in calories and make you feel fuller for longer, without the harsh tastes that other foods with similar benefits have (such as apple cider vinegar).
Let’s check out a couple of the trending konjac products in South Korea!
- Konjac Sponge
The konjac sponge is a product that isn’t only popular in Korea. Companies around the world have caught on to the immense popularity that this beauty appliance has received. The sponge is used to clean your face of impurities and is safe to use as it is made of natural fibers (it won’t irritate your skin). The sponge feels like a loofah, only with a bit more of rubbery texture, and does a great job of deep-cleansing your face. Konjac is also rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, and E; and has proteins, natural minerals, and fatty acids, making it the holy grail of skin care ingredients.
- Konjac Jelly Snack
Though this snack is Japanese, not Korean, children (and adults) have fallen in love with this treat. It tastes just like American jelly, only it comes in small, individual cup-shaped packaging. Just two years ago, the demand for this snack was so high that travelers coming back from Japan would usually bring a couple of bags of konjac jelly for their friends! You can slurp the jelly up in one go, or savour it in tiny bites—either way, you’ll love it.
- Konjac Diet Jelly
One of the most popular foods in South Korea, konjac diet jellies have taken the internet by storm. A combination of konjac, erythritol, and flavouring, these jellies come in spout pouches (like baby food), making it convenient to eat and store them on the go. The most appealing part of konjac diet jellies is that they taste just like normal jelly snacks, but without the calories and the sugar! Some people eat one pouch of them before every meal as a diet technique so that they eat less food.
- “Nokdumuk” Side Dish
“Nokdumuk,” which translates to “mung bean jelly,” is a popular Korean side dish. The main base of this dish is konjac jelly, which has the consistency of American jelly but has no flavour. The jelly is seasoned with soy sauce and vinegar, and sometimes more flavour is added through various ingredients, including vegetables and stir-fried beef. There are similar dishes to nokdumuk in other Asian countries, such as liangfen, a mung bean jelly dish from China.
It doesn’t seem like the health craze will be dying down any time soon, so it looks like we’ll be seeing konjac around in convenience stores for a while. If you’re in Korea (or any Asian grocery store), make sure to keep an eye out for some konjac products!
Written by Lynn Lee