Friday, August 26, 2005

Mom's Home-made Tokoroten (Agar noodles?)


My mom called me up last night and said she would bring me some home-made tokoroten today when she comes to Kochi city for a tea ceremony meeting. I met her in front of a train station this afternoon to receive a tiny cooler box with tokoroten and bunch of ice cubes and coolants stuffed inside.

So what the heck is tokoroten anyway? OK, it’s jelly-like noodles… or should I say noodle-like jelly, or maybe, agar noodles?

To make home-made tokoroten, you first need to get dried tengusa, a type of seaweed. (Of course it's easier to use dried kanten-bars or kanten powders. They are dried form of gelatin from the seaweed.) Well, my mom really made the tokoroten from scratch this time; she picked tengusa seaweed every time she went to the beach this summer, dried it and kept it somewhere in the house for about a month. She really loves doing things like that, but I do hope she stored the dried tengusa somewhere far away from kitchen this summer …because it really STINKS!!
(The photo shows someone's tengusa bing dried, not my mom's.)

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To make tokoroten from scratch, you soak dried tengusa in water first, and then boil it in water to which a little vinegar added. When the water thickens with the gelatin from the seaweed, strain it to remove the seaweed and pour the glue-like soup into a vat and refrigerate. I read somewhere that leaving it at room temperature to let it settle makes better-tasting tokoroten, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.

This is the tokoroten I got from mom today. Now I'll show you how to make these tokoroten chunks into noodles.

To do that, you need a special devise.

As you can probably figure out from the way this devise looks, the process is pretty straightforward.

You slip a tokoroten jelly chunk into this device

and push it with the bar with a flat top.

Then, tata~!

You can eat tokoroten noodles with either sweet sauce or soy-vinegar sauce. I like soy-vinegar version better, with a bit of grated ginger and aonori ( green laver) maybe?

This summer, tokoroten became suddenly popular throughout Japan and almost all the stores ran out of this summer food at one point. The reason was (I think) a TV show that introduces healthy foods and health tips every week. A few months ago, it featured tokoroten as a zero-calorie diet food which also reduces blood sugar, cholesterol, body fat and blood pressure, and raises basal metabolism. People rushed to the stores right after.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t take what this TV show introduces at face value any more since the spring before. They said that eating yogurt and mackerel and drinking sweet Chinese tea would prevent cedar allergy (or reduce its symptoms), and I had them almost every day for good two months or so. And I ended up having real bad allergy symptoms that spring. So I don’t really expect to be super-healthy tomorrow morning, but it doesn't ruin my pleasure of enjoying the interesting texture of the noodles.

Thanks mom. This tokoroten was just a little bit too soft for me, but pretty tasty! :D


Anonymous said...

Mmmm, that looks soo good - especially on a hot summer's day! 

Posted by J*me

Anonymous said...

I think I have had these noodles the soup base a vinegar and shoyu and sesame base? Or something looks so perfect for a hot summer day... and agar noodles from scratch? Your mother is a saint.... 

Posted by carlyn

Anonymous said...

Welcome and thanks for your comment! :D Yep, it's really nice and refreshing.

Well, in your country, would a saint call you up early in the morning and ask "Hey, how did you like my tokoroten?" 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I want that device. Imagine the kind of funky stuff I can do with it! 

Posted by OsloFoodie

Anonymous said...

Dear Obachama:

I love your website. Great photos, great creativity! Also, your English is awesome! I always suspected that you grew up in an English speaking country!

Thanks for your love for food !!!

Best regards,
Ms. Angie


Posted by angiegram

Anonymous said...

Wow. That's a funky device. And of course your Mum meticulously created that jelly at the exact right height level too.

Your Mum sounds wonderful. So dedicated and patient! 

Posted by AugustusGloop

Anonymous said...

Wow! I bet your creative mind will come up with a lot funkier stuff than I can imagine. ;)

Thanks for your nice comment and calling me obachama. That’s so cute. That reminded me of a female film critic who passed away recently… BTW, I appreciate your compliment but I know my English is not that good. Actually a hidden purpose of this site is to provide readers with something to submit to a site called “”

Well….she IS dedicated, but I’m not sure if “patient” is a right word to describe her. ;P
Anyway, she IS a challenger. That’s for sure. 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

yum yum. i've been eating a lot of tokoroten this summer too. my mom must've seen the same japanese health program since she's claiming that it's zero calories and will help you lose weight (melt fat were her exact words, i think). i like it with the soy vinegar sauce plus ginger, negi, shiso and karashi. was thinking about making it with matcha for a change of pace...

i am also skeptical of those crazy health programs...some of the ideas they come up with... 

Posted by rae

Anonymous said...

At first I thought, “What!! Matcha tokoroten?!” but that may be a good idea. After all, tokoroten is almost the same as agar-agar (I guess the only difference is the type of seaweed used?? No??) and not too far from gelatin, right? Actually my mom loves making coffee tokoroten and umeshu tokoroten.
I’m glad that someone shares the same opinion about those health programs : ) 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

Looks really good.. Obachan..!!
i love to try it..!


Posted by Big BoK

Anonymous said...

Hi Big Bok,
Do you have a similar food over there? 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

hi, obachan, found your site through celia's and other Filipinas'. are these at all similar to shirataki and/or konnyaku noodles? i was looking for shirataki noodles at this Korean store and i was told they were the same as konnyaku noodles. however, i found two different packages -- the noodles did look very similar but the liquid in which they were packed were different. thanks! 

Posted by stef

Anonymous said...

Interesting question! You see, we are so used to the Japanese foods we have here that we almost never stop and think about them to come up with a question like this. I didn’t know the answer and needed to google a bit.
OK. Basically shirataki is one form of konnyaku. Here ’s an explanation of what shirataki/konnyaku is and how they are made. (Scroll down to “Some oden ingredients” section.) I guess the biggest difference is that shirataki or konnyaku can be cooked, but tokoroten would probably melt when heated, I guess...  

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

konnyaku, whether it be in block form or noodle, is made from the flour of member of the taro family. kanten/agar/tokoroten is made from seaweed. big difference.

Anonymous said...

This is a great article. I'm not sure if you know this, but they added Tokoroten as a recipe in the game Cooking Mama 2. So I was kind of interested in finding out what it actually was like.

I also kind of am curious as to what it tastes like, and if you could get it at a Japanese resturant.

obachan said...

Thank you, Violet_yoshi.
I sure didn't know about the game, and have no idea why they decided to add that particular dish. Maybe they liked the process of pushing it through the cutting device?? It's fun. Really. I don't know how many non-Japanese people actually love this dish, though. Even many Japanese people do not care for this because of its fishy smell.

I don't think you can get tokoroten at real expensive, Western-style restaurants in Japan. Maybe you can have a better chance at traditional Japanese restaurants in summer. In a small fishing town like my hometown, tokoroten is everywhere... you can buy it at supermarkets or eat it at local eating places.

Anonymous said...

hi obachan,

i've just recently discovered your lovely site, and i'm excited to try some of your recipes!

i've made tokoroten the other day, but i had to hand cut the you know where i can get a hold of that device online?


obachan said...

Hi Alice,
Thanks for dropping by. Glad to hear that you made home-made tokoroten and liked it. (You're trying to make it again so I assume you liked it.)

So... you live in Japan, right? There are several websites that you can order very affordable plastic ones like the one shown in this post. The price is just above 100 yen. But the problem is the shipping fee... You'll probably have to pay 500 to 600 yen shipping fee for ordering just one tokoroten-tsuki which costs only about 100 yen. I wonder if you really want to give this a try. (If you do, let me know. I'll post the URLs of the sites.)

And if you live outside Japan... All the Japanese websites I saw said "No overseas delivery." Sorry.

Thiruppathy Raja said...

Excellent read. I like your style...have a good one!

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