On Shirataki Noodles


I miss pasta. I miss heaping bowls of steaming linguine with red clam sauce. I miss the feel of a spoonful of classic spaghetti alla Bolognese. I miss ravioli and oozy bites of lasagna or bouncy tagliatelle coated in creamy cheese sauces. I even miss (don't judge me) the thin, springy strands of 10-cent ramen coated in that much-too-salty flavor powder (my favorite is "oriental"). I miss the ease of pasta. Few things match the comfort and convenience of tossing a box of rigatoni into a rapidly boiling pot. Shhh... Listen. Can't you practically hear the woosh as they pass from cardboard box to bubbling water?

I tried substitutions. I played around with soy noodles and low-carb noodles and nutty-textured whole wheat noodles. I painstakingly julienned thin strips of zucchini and boiled and served with sauce just like I would normal linguine. And everything looked so good! It looked right. But the moment I lifted fork to mouth, the excitement was gone because it just didn't *taste* right. And, as I'm sure you'll agree, it really is all about the taste.

So I basically gave up on trying to recreate these memories at home, settling for the occasional indulgent bite of my boyfriend's pasta which he'll hold up in front of me, steamy and dangling from the fork just inches from my face. And those bites...man...those bites are good. And they're good enough to make me rethink this whole way of eating. So I battle it out in my head. The bouncy bite of al dente vs. the single-digit-sized dresses hanging in my closet. And I'm almost sorry to say that for this girl, this girl who trained in Tuscany and who can, if asked, turn a mound of flour and eggs and water into something bouncy and wonderful, well even for her, those dresses win. 

But I still miss it, and I began to assume that this would just be it. But then something happened. Something I never expected. There I was, pushing my cart through the refrigerated aisle in a search for Greek-strained yogurt, when my eyes fell upon something new. A plastic bag filled with...cooked spaghetti? I picked it up: Tofu Shirataki. Yam and tofu noodles, it explained. I turned it over and smiled. 3 grams of carbs. 2 grams of fiber. That's 1 net carb. And the serving size? Well it was the whole bag! I grabbed a few and tossed in my cart excited about the possibilities.

Folks, I love this stuff. I love it. I made carbonara first, frying bits of thick, country bacon until crisp, tossing with shaved pecorino, and breaking one giant egg over it all, letting the golden yolk ooze and pour over the strands. It was good. It was very good. It was pasta. The next night I made a cream sauce from whole-milk ricotta, lemon zest, and fresh basil. I cracked black pepper over it all and curled up with my bowl. 

It doesn't taste weird. It doesn't taste like anything, actually. Made from the root of an Asian plant called the Elephant Yam (which bears no relation to those starchy Thanksgiving yams), the noodles are somewhat transluscent and have practically no calories, carbs, or really much of anything. They can be made from the yam alone, but these can be a bit rubbier than the ones made from a tofu-yam blend which are springy, but not in an overly pronounced way. I've tried both and prefer the tofu kind, but will eat either. The noodles are tasteless and take on the flavors of whatever it is served with.  Note that the water it comes in smells a bit odd. Almost fishy or slightly chemical, but it can be easily rinsed away in cold water and then boiled for a minute or two to completely wipe it out and it doesn't affect the taste of the noodles at all. 

If you miss pasta, try this. Buy a few bags (look for them at Whole Foods and Trader Joes near the tofu, tempeh, and vegan products in the refrigerator case; your local Asian markets should have them too. They can also be purchased online in boxes of 12.) Once you have them, be sure not to boil them like you would pasta. Just a minute or so to rinse off the package water then finish off in the sauce you make or toss into a cold noodle salad. Add to soup. Top with sauce or cheese or olive oil and garlic. Add herbs. Add spices. It's pasta. Enjoy it.


22 comments:

  1. This made my weekend. My Whole Foods doesn't carry them, so I'll have to patiently wait for Hanna to die down so I can gleefully run down to Trader Joe's.
    Maybe I'll start the sauce now...I'm having PASTA tonight! :)

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  2. Good luck finding them, Katie! Keep an eye out for them in the refrigerated section near the tofu and vegan products like tempeh or seitan.

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  3. You can find them at www.miraclenoodle.com
    Try the orzo it is great!!

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  4. I've always kept my eyes out for these, but I've never found them. I heard about them from Hungry Girl. I might have to buy some online!

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  5. I feel your pain, I did the no carb (and I do mean damn near zero) for a long time.

    I'll have to look for the 'rubbier' kind of these noodles as I'm allergic to tofu, even in small amounts. I'm due to go back to the hardcore Atkins soon.

    I have my Doctor yelling to lose more weight, and a trip to the sunny beaches of Mexico, can't be a hairy whale on the beach, now can I?

    Thanks for this!

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  6. Ohh some spicy and sour soup with that noodles can be a wonderful dish!

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  7. You have made my day! I can't eat Tofu however, there is a Shirataki without tofu. Bring it on!

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  8. I have never hered of it, but it does looks good! I ate today at lunch a really nice corn pasta. Can you have that? It was very good!

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  9. I don't think those taste "right" with tomato sauce at all. I love the noodles, just not used in place of regular pasta. They have more of a ramen texture to me. I could see them in a chicken noodle soup or something of the sort, but I tried them once with tomato sauce & I just couldn't choke them down. I really felt like I was eating ramen w/ spaghetti sauce. Ew.

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  11. I've been eating these for over a year now.
    I love them.
    I have about 4 packs of them in my fridge currently. :)
    Who ever thought of these are a genius.

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  12. i have always been really wary of these, but i think now i will give them a try. You sound like you know your pasta.

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  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting about this! I haven't been able to find these in my local stores, so the on line source is a big help.

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  14. Interesting alternative. The ingredients of the noddles in particular -- out of curiosity, why don't you regularly eat regular pasta? Are you on a low-carb diet? South Beach? Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen loves Dreamfields pasta -- have you tried that?

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  15. ooh, I've never tried those! I be they'd be good with a soy/ginger/vinegar sauce...

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  16. Shirataki noodles ARE amazing. Never thought of trying them with anything other than Asian recipes. Do you have a delicious, easy cream sauce you'd care to share?

    The great part about low carbing is getting to indulge in all of the decadent, rich components of a meal. No cheap filler starches for us! :)

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  17. I might have to order htese. I love my pasta and my partner makes me eat more of it than I should. Thanks for the tip!

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  18. Wow, I dropped 15 lbs. in a few months employing a "no white stuff" diet (taken literally, since almost everything has some form of corn in it, pretty much means nothing in the cupboard, can, or frozen). Wonder if these noodles would allow me to skirt the rules, heh heh. Thanks for the tip!

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  19. Two things have brought me joy during this horrible week of papers and finals: 1) shirataki noodles and 2) the STEAL on Rao's sauces I found at the grocery store. I stocked my cart with both...my version of retail therapy!

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  20. It took some serious looking, but I eventually found them in a dingy stinky Asian grocery store very close to where I live. They were in the refrigerator section. I have tried both the tofu shirataki noodles and the straight shirataki noodles. I am overjoyed! They are fabulous. What a great discovery.

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  21. Miracle Noodles are AMAZING!! I think I eat them like every day, and sometimes 2x's a day. The liquid it's packed in stinks, but as soon as you rise them it's all gone. The trick is making the noodles as dry as you can, and then toss them with anything you like!!! I have made stir fry, lite spicy coconut shrimp soup,pad thai, "spaghetti" & meatballs, chicken alfredo, ect..they all taste amazing with these noodles. I am Italian and consider myself a picky pasta eater and I am a fan! I just order them from MiracleNoodle.com, but I plan on checking out the Asian stores near me this weekend b/c the shipping can really add up!

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  22. I love the guilt-free aspect of these "noodles", but i don't really like the wateriness they bring to dishes. Any advice on this? Is there some way to "dry them out", ItalianNoodle?

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