Tama Konnyaku and Asparagus Skewers

In spite of what some of you might think the white balls you see above are not gnocchi or any other floury dumplings, but tama konnyaku, a wonderful, healthy, almost zero calorie Japanese product made with a plant called konnyaku  (Amorphophallus konjac). Often called devil’s tongue, yam or konjac this plant is transformed into flour and then mixed with water to produce a sort of gelatinous, transparent substance, sold as noodles (shirataki or ito konnyaku), rectangular blocks (ita konnyaku) and the “balls” you see above (tama konnyaku).  All these products are very rich in fiber, contain no carbs, have almost zero calorie per 100 g and an amazing capacity to absorb the flavours from the sauce or the soup they are served with.  The high fiber they contain regulates the digestion, gives a very quick sensation of satiety, while the low-calorie and low-carb intake allows even the biggest diet freak to enjoy a fabulous dish. Konnyaku is called in Japan “the broom for the stomach” due to its high fiber content.

Until now I have posted only two konnyaku-based recipes (Stir-Fried Shirataki or Ita Konnyaku Noodles and  Tama Konnyaku with Bacon and Shiitake), but I stir-fry them quite often, which is not the way they are usually served in Japan (very often served in broths or soups). Whenever I know I will have a rich, high-calorie dinner, I prepare my lunch with konnyaku noodles or balls and can guiltlessly indulge in a pizza, foie gras, duck confit or another rich dish I adore.

This is how a package of konnyaku balls looks like:

Last week, when I decided to prepare a tama konnyaku lunch, I had a quick flash of skewered tama konnyaku probably seen on a website, a blog or a tv program. I combined them with asparagus, my favourite spring vegetable and served as a side-dish with stir-fried chicken breasts. Since konnyaku balls don’t have much taste, a sauce was obligatory and teriyaki glaze seemed the easiest choice.  I must say I was very happy with this first skewered side-dish in my life. It looked cute and was a perfect lunch the day I planned to dine in my favourite pizzeria (I needn’t add I do not go there to have a light salad…).

TIPS: Tama konnyaku is sold in bags filled with water. They have a very long shelf life if kept in the fridge. If you don’t use the entire bag content, rinse the balls, put them in a bowl, cover with fresh water and keep tightly closed for a couple of days in the fridge.

I don’t have a grill, so this recipe explains how to prepare the skewers on a simple grill pan.

If you prefer a sweeter teriyaki glaze, add some sugar. (For me the sweetness of mirin is enough).

Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 3-4 as a side dish):

1 bag of tama konnyaku (400g)

10 green asparagus stalks

Teriyaki glaze:

2 tablespoons mirin (can be substituted with 1 – 2 tablespoons syrup)

3 tablespoons soy sauce (or 4-5 if you have low sodium soy sauce)

3 tablespoons sake

Soak the skewers in water for at least 15 minutes to avoid burning.

Cut up the asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces, preferably similar in length to the tama konnyaku thickness.

Drain and rinse tama konnyaku. Cook them in boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Rinse them once more.

Thread the konnyaku balls and the asparagus pieces on skewers.

Heat an oiled grill pan (or a grill).

Place the skewers on the pan (oil brushed side down) and grill about 7 minutes on each side (or more depending on the asparagus thickness).

In the meantime bring the teriyaki glaze to boil in a small pan and boil it until it thickens. Put aside.

Place the skewers on serving plates and brush them with teriyaki glaze on both sides.




43 Replies to “Tama Konnyaku and Asparagus Skewers”

  1. What a gorgeous side dish, Sissi! I always learn something popping in to visit your blog…tama konnyaku is new to me 🙂 Happy Monday~

  2. How interesting Sissi – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted konnyaku before (at least not to my knowledge) and am very curious to experience its gelatinous texture. The ball formation looks so much like scallop. I agree with you on asparagus this time of year… at its peak of freshness and delight. What a lovely little skewered invention you’ve treated us to today Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. The substance is gelatinous indeed and konnyaku is also used to produce sweet jellies individually packed and frankly addictive, but the balls and the noodles are not gelatinous at all. The noodles look at first sight like normal glass noodles and they have a similar consistency. They practically have no taste. I think you would like playing with konnyaku products.

  3. I’ve only every tasted the konnyaku jelly but I think I’ll definitely like the texture of the tama konnyaku too! However, I still don’t understand how anything can be 0 calories other than water! haha

    1. Hi, Sylvia. It’ something like 3 kcal per 100g which is very close to zero kcal indeed (it’s written on the package). I suppose there is a lot of water in both noodles and balls and a small amount of konnyaku flour. I love konnyaku sweet jellies!

  4. Hi Sissi, I’ve never tried konnyaku, must have seen them around in the Asian markets but not paid attention for some reason. The skewer looks really good, and I am intrigued with something that taste yummy, is high fiber, that’s nearly 0 calories? Who can say no to that?

    1. Thank you, Jeno. It is real wonder food. I think tama konnyaku has 3 or 6 kcal per 100 g depending on the brand. Incredible isn”t it?

  5. I love the Sheritaki noodles and have used them often. I’ll have to keep my eye open for these little dumplings! This is why I love blogging, so many new and interesting things to be discovered. Have a great week.

    1. Hi, Eva. I always keep both noodles and balls in the fridge to change from time to time, but both are excellent diet products aren’t they? Have a lovely week too.

  6. I love it when a product has a long shelf life — just in case plans change and you can’t make a recipe when you’d planned! This is quite an intriguing recipe Sissi and I echo what Eva said about all the interesting things we discover blogging! Have a great day!

  7. Hi Sissi – I think you posted a konnyaku dish a while ago right? I remember being really interested in it because I’d never heard of it before. I was so planning on getting some and I never did! Thanks for reminding me of this, especially now when I’m really trying to drop a few kilos… I keep snacking too much… grr!

    This looks like a really great idea. I’m not familiar with the taste at all but I’m eager to give it a try. I wonder if I can convince my wife to come to to Rue St. Anne this Saturday. We can buy some at the Japanese store, Kioko, and maybe eat some okonomiyaki too 😀

    1. Thank you, Charles. Yes, I posted two recipes (links above in the text) although I should do it more often because I keep on inventing different stir-fries with both products. I think you should definitely try the noodles to start with. Don’t be put off with the fishy smell when you rinse and parboil them. It disappears afterwards. Noodles are an excellent way to “cheat” the eyes and the stomach 😉
      Balls are tougher and chewier so noodles would be a better start.
      Good luck with your weight loss!

    1. Thank you so much for this excellent idea. I would have never thought of putting them in a salad!

  8. That looks really delicious, Sissi. At first glance I thought they were scallops. I’ve never tried konnyaku this way before (had them as jellies and desserts). I’ve always wondered what those little blobs were in their packets. I’ve seen the slightly translucent greyish ones. I might give this a try. Thanks Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. They don’t really look very appetising I suppose when you see them in a bag filled with water… Do try them one day. They are really a very interesting discovery, especially given the almost zero calories and no carbs!
      I love konnyaku jellies although now they are impossible to buy here 🙁

  9. These look very tasty and an easy little appetizer! Thanks for introducing us to konnyaku balls. I’ve seen them but had no idea what they were or what to do with them. So Thanks!

  10. Sissi, we both have skewers recipe today but yours are MUCH healthier! I’ve seen tama konnyaku last time I was at a supermarket too. I love how you made skewers. This is totally low calorie appetizer. And asparagus can be replaceable too. Great choice to make it with asparagus though. Oishisooo!

    1. Hi, Nami. Thank you for the compliments. I really appreciate them. I have been away this weekend so still had no time to check your post but I’m hopping now! It’s so funny we have both posted skewers!

  11. I’ve heard of a similar zero calorie noodle called shirataki noodles, seems like its made if the same ingredient! It’s the first time I see it in little gnocchi like balls though, thanks for introducing it! I don’t believe in calories as you prob know but It’s interesting to learn of new ingredients and flavours all the same! Yum!

    1. Hi, Shuhan. I have written about shirataki noodles (the link above in the text) and you are right: they are made of the same ingredient. (I also didn’t believe in calories or carbs when I was ten years younger and had a better metabolism 😉 ). Counting or not counting calories is not important: I don’t have to count in order to know that if I have a big bowl of real noodles for lunch and a pizza for dinner I will have eaten more than I need (but if both are delicious I will not necessarily refuse). Another thing is that, strangely, people rarely exaggerate with calories coming from cucumbers or lettuce 😉 but it usually comes from sweets and other carbs. Unfortunately the difference between what we need to eat and what we want to eat is sometimes big.

  12. I am not familar with tama konnyaku, but you explained it very well, now I am more inclined to look for it and give it a try. Like the Japanese name “the broom for the stomach” sure better than taking laxative.

  13. Living in Hong Kong, I have come across konnyaku many times in the supermarket. Although this seemed inviting, I didn’t buy it yet, unsure of how to cook this. But hey, this is fabulous! I didn’t know that it is so healthy! Definitely going to try this. Oh, is this the secret to Japanese for staying slim and trim ?

    1. Thank you so much, Purabi. I hope you can try it soon. I don’t know if it’s the Japanese secret of staying slim, but it is very useful if one wants to have filling, but very light meals.

  14. I like the sound of these skewers…I never seen konnyaku shaped like this…I need to look for it!
    Thanks for this recipe and hope you are having a great week Sissi 🙂

  15. what a great discovery Sissi! hadnt seen or heard before of konnyaku!
    So this is some type of yam, correct? some ideas are building up in my mind! =D

    I love aspargus and skewers too, looking forward to have your awesome creation pretty soon!!

    1. Thank you, Helene. Konnyaku is a kind of yam although I have only seen it in form of konnyaku noodles, squares and these balls.

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