Konnyaku?.................. Where am I, Japan?
Nope, you’re not in Japan. But, with access to exotic ingredients from all
over the world, you almost could be. There used to be a time when the
standard Joe didn’t know that a “latte” was a coffee drink and “wasabi” was
the Japanese version of horseradish. Now, you can find lattes on every
corner and get wasabi roots, wasabi in a tube and wasabi powder at your
local grocer. My, how times have changed.
WHAT IS KONJAC?
Basically, the Konjac root (a tuber or “yam” unique to Asia) is the source
of Glucomannan; a water-soluble dietary fiber that expands many times its
size when consumed. This makes the “consumer” feel full with less food and
provides a nice bit of fiber in the process.
In addition, some small studies have suggested that Glucomannan aids in
lowing blood pressure and assists in regulating blood sugars. Interesting,
eh? We’re talking about a plate of this stuff (in noodle form) having
virtually no carbs because it is almost 100% fiber!
It’s so low in carbs, cals, AND fat (for those of you counting fat grams as
well) that you can practically call it a “free” food.
There are two main types of the noodles. The plain yam noodles, a.k.a.
Shirataki, are made mainly with the yam flour itself and are a white,
Tofu Shirataki is made with the addition of tofu which makes the noodles a
creamy white, opaque color and ups the carb content a little.
I generally use the plain noodles (without tofu) for two reasons. One, I try
to stay away from too many NON-fermented soy products and two; I prefer to
get my carbs in veggie form as much as possible.
The traditional uses consist of mostly soups and stir frys but these noodles
can also do a decent job doubling as pasta. True, konjac noodles have their
own special texture and they will never take the place of perfectly cooked,
al dente pasta but if you can learn to finesse them, you’ll be able to add a
pasta-style dish back to your weekly menu any night you wish, as often as
TRICKS OF THE KONJAC TRADE
First, you need to rinse them and snip the noodles with kitchen shears so
they aren’t so long…
The water them come packed in takes on a rather odd aroma. Believe it or
not, they come out of the package with a slightly fishy smell that is not
very appetizing. You really must rinse them off before using. But please,
don’t stop reading! Just give it a shot. I bet half of you will be surprised
at how well they work for a pasta substitute.
SIDE NOTE: After they’re rinsed, you can just nuke them until hot, top with
sauce and serve, but the noodles tend to “weep” (giving off water) if they
aren’t sautéed a little first and you end up with watery sauce. I recommend
the following method.
After you’ve rinsed them, pat dry in a few paper towels and place in a sauce
pan or skillet on HIGH with 1-2 tablespoons of fat/oil that can withstand
high heat such as bacon fat, lard, or coconut oil. Don’t use too much. You
just want to barely coat the bottom of the pan.
I’ve tried this without the fat but the noodles dry up unevenly and get a
very strange, rubbery texture. Besides, the fat you use adds a bit of flavor
and helps get rid of any leftover “oddness” from the packing water. Bacon
fat is my favorite thing to use for this.
As the noodles sauté, they will reduce in size by about half. You don’t want
to cook them down too long or they will be difficult to chew. Some moisture
must remain to get the best texture. Here’s an example of what they’ll look
like after cooking…
On the left are the noodles directly from the package. On the right are the
noodles I sautéed in bacon fat for about 10-15 minutes. Cooking time will
depend on how many noodles you are cooking. I usually do two packages at
once on HIGH.
As soon as the noodles have reduced in size, add your sauce and toss until
well coated and heated through.
Use any type of sauce you normally would for pasta; bacon-shallot cream
sauce, cheesy alfredo or a basic meat and tomato. The possibilities are
endless. Drizzle with a little olive oil, add some grated parmesan and
Here’s an example of my “spaghetti” after eating half the portion. I am
tipping the plate and notice there is NO water pooling towards the bottom of
the picture. This is because I used the sauté technique before adding the
I know that some of you will try these noodles and not like them. That’s OK,
don’t worry about it. Myself, I’ve really fallen in love with them NOT
because they taste just like Barilla but because of what they MEAN...
- They provide fiber
- Help with blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Assist in making you feel fuller
- And best of all, you can eat a HUGE plate of spaghetti for about 10 carbs.
If you use a cream sauce instead of a tomato sauce, your carb content will
be closer to 5 carbs. That’s pretty amazing. (If you use the Tofu Shirataki
noodles the carb content is slightly higher)
Copyright 2005 M.L. Rathbun including Photos