With their obviously Asian name, Shirataki noodles originally came from Japan, but they have recently been gaining ground worldwide. Shirataki comes from the root of a plant called konnyaku, konjac, elephant yam (but not related to any yam) and plenty of other names, depending on where they are grown. Thanks to their beneficial fiber content, known as glucomannan, Shirataki noodles offer almost no undesirable carbohydrates for the body.
In addition, glucomannan has been found to play a beneficial role in blood sugar control, cholesterol intake and weight loss. As an excellent source of dietary fiber, the glucose of Shirataki noodles is an ideal substitute for starchy noodles. Thanks to these aspects, the noodle has come to be known as the “miracle noodle”: by mainstream media, dieters and fitness experts.
In recent years, people have been combining the healthy aspects of Shirataki noodles with another “healthy” food: tofu. In its original form, Shirataki noodles tended to be somewhat rubbery, one of the primary complaints against the noodle. The rubbery texture can be reduced by a short period of boiling. However, some people found that adding tofu to the dish greatly enhanced the noodle, in addition to contributing p1 gram of protein and about 3 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Tofu is a perfect complement for Shirataki noodles and is now a popular addition to the otherwise plain dish.
Shirataki noodles can be usually found in Asian grocery stores, or in supermarkets near a neighborhood with largely Asian members. They can also be found in health food stores such as Whole Foods, or through websites online. They are displayed in refrigerated cases near salad ingredients or vegetables.
Shirataki noodles typically come wet; that is, they are packed in liquid. They are often packed in 8 ounce bags filled with water for preservation. After draining the water, the noodles themselves can fit in a single cup. Since most are imported from elsewhere, Shirataki noodles can be somewhat pricey. An 8-oz bag can cost $1.50 in some areas, or 75 cents for a half cup serving. In contrast, a single 1-lb pound of Ronzonni spaghetti costs only 66 cents on sale, and is good for up to four cups of cooked pasta. Shirataki noodles are even more expensive than rice noodles, which cost just 45 cents per half cup serving.
Despite the cost difference, many people argue that the price tag is worth it. This is because the majority of pasta dishes are loaded with lots of calories. For example, a 1 cup serving of cooked spaghetti packs a whopping 220+ calories by itself. Add in the other high calorie ingredients, such as sauces, meatballs and garnishes, and the calorie meter quickly shoots up. In contrast, Shirataki noodles contain a mere 20 calories (that’s right: 20) and about 3 grams of carbohydrates per serving. With this incredible calorific value, you can eat Shirataki noodles every day and never gain weight. In fact, if you strictly stuck to just the noodles, you would drastically lose weight as it falls far short of the recommended daily intake.
This is due to the fact that fiber itself does not contain any calories, and passes through the body’s digestive system intact. Foods high in fiber also require more chewing, so that its harder to consume calories in fiber rich foods faster than in regular ones. Add to this the rubbery texture of Shirataki noodles (which can also be a good thing, as seen here),and you get a workout and consume calories just by eating the noodles! In fact, Shirataki noodles is one of the few foods where you probably consume more calories just chewing it, compared to the calories it give you.
One good thing about Shirataki noodles beside their healthy nature is that they are usually ready to eat right out of the foil. Some people just run the noodles under hot water for a few minutes, chop them or cut them up with kitchen scissors, and add them to a main dish. They can also be used as filling in salads or desserts. Shirataki noodles work particularly well when part of a creamy or cheesy dish. Since the noodles themselves are extremely low in fat and calorie level, you can indulge and add a little bit of cream or cheese to the mix. This will greatly improve the taste and texture of the dish.
However, Shirataki noodles are not ideal for all types of dishes. For instance, the light texture of the noodles does not go well with the rich flavor of the majority of Italian dishes. Second, their relatively light load of calories means that Shirataki noodles do not make for a fulfilling dish on its own.