I usually just "lurk" on this list, but I made a "fun" discovery last week
that I'd like to share. It might be old news to some but it was a surprise
to me:

Last week I spotted some vegetarian meat substitutes in a little
hole-in-the-wall Taiwanese grocery in Chinatown. Although they say they are
made from "yams", the "yam" was quite clearly pictured on the back in
various stages of growth. It is none other than our friend Amorphophallus!
Probably konjac; it resembles mine tho not exactly.

Now I am suspicious that the "yams" in many Asian foods--Korean Yam
noodles, Japanese Yam cakes--are actually made from the tubers of
Amorphophallus. Considering their texture, that seems to make more sense. I
had always thought "yam" referred to Dioscorea--an unrelated plant (like a
giant monocotyledenous sweet potato), which, ironically, I have growing up
the corner of my house not more than a few feet away from A. konjac. I
would not be surprised if both plants have similar names in Chinese--I
think that Dioscorea batatas is actually referred to as a "Mountain Yam".

Of course I had to try one of the packages. I can report that the shrimp
were a little bland but do indeed have a consistency much like the real
thing. Next time I'll marinate them. Should come in handy for vegetarian
versions of Thai dishes.

You never know about the accuracy of labels on imported foods, but
Amorphophallus might not be the most nutrient-dense food. It only listed 50
calories from carbohydrates and a gram of protein--and the protein is
probably all from a soy-derived ingredient. I added up all the weight from
protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber, and it didn't add up to more than a
fraction of the weight of the product. OK, what the heck is it then?

an unrelated aside: Tony, your black-leaf Taro is just as cute as can be.
It's actually doing OK even this far north (Seattle).


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