September 7, 2012 by Suzanne
Shirawhatsit? What are you talking about?
If you are unfamiliar with shirataki noodles, there’s no better time than now to get acquainted with these noodles that just may change your life.
What’s so amazing about noodles, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. THEY HAVE NO CALORIES! Yes, you heard correctly, they have no calories. It is possible to buy, eat, and enjoy noodles with zero calories. Please, take a moment to let this news sink in. Do a dance if you like. I think it warrants it.
Shirataki noodles, by volume, are mostly water. They are made by boiling water with a small amount of water soluble fiber from a type of yam, which sets up and can be formed into just about any noodle shape. Fiber is not digested by the body, and thus does not have any calories.
They have no taste of their own, but instead take on the flavors of the sauce or other ingredients they’re served with. They require no cooking, have a long shelf life, and have a firm texture. If served in liquid, they can feel slippery, but it’s also possible to dry them a bit for a less slippery noodle. They also can be found in just about any shape: spaghetti, angle hair, rigatoni, lasagna, rice, pearl, fettuccine, even shrimp-shaped!
There is a variety of shirataki noodles that are made with some tofu as well as yam flour, but those have some carbs and calories, though still a very small amount. They can also be found in a brown or black(which looks brown) variety, the the only difference being that some seaweed powder was added for extra mineral content. I got a chance to try some of this variety, and they taste the same as the white noodles.
In addition to being a zero calorie food, there is some evidence that the yam fiber, once consumed, can help inhibit your body from absorbing sugar. I tried it out myself, and my blood sugar was 10 points lower an hour AFTER I ate a meal with these noodles than it was before.
How are they prepared?
They are already “cooked”, so no actual cooking is necessary. They usually come packaged in water, and as they sit in the package, they can develop a slightly fishy odor, especially when you first take them out of the package. All you need to do is drain the water, put them in a bowl, and cover them with boiling water for a few minutes and then drain the water again. My first step for preparing a dish with shirataki noodles is to put the teapot on. It is really quite easy. Some people are evidently more sensitive about this than me, because I’ve never really been bothered by it. Then again, I don’t keep them around for a few years before I eat them, so I suppose that extra long storage times may increase the odor.
If you are using them in place of spaghetti or in another noodles-plus-sauce type of meal, patting the noodles dry before adding the sauce will make them seem much more “normal.” Watery sauce isn’t all that appetizing. I’ve also seen people swish the noodles in a frying pan for a few minutes to dry them just a bit.
Where can I find these fantastical noodles?
In Salem, Oregon, I buy my shirataki noodles in 2lb packages from Que Huong Oriental Foods on Silverton Road. They just moved into a much nicer building, but they have the same friendly staff and exotic selection as their older and less savory location. They only carry one shape of noodle, which is the basic very thin and very long variety that seems to be the shirataki default, but they now have both the white and brown varieties. This works great in sukiyaki or as spaghetti. Also, the price comes out to $1.25 per half pound (average packages are between 7 and 9oz), which is cheaper than any other source that I’ve ever seen. If you have an Asian market available to you, check there first, and if they don’t carry them, they may be willing to carry them or to order them for you.
As for other shapes, I don’t know of a physical store that carries them, but they are available on-line from several different retailers. Shop around, as some places have better deals than others, and the availability of certain varieties can be variable. I don’t want to plug one retailer over another, but I will say that the Miracle Noodles available through Amazon are some of the most expensive on the market. It’s convenient to order with Amazon, I’ll grant you, but I wouldn’t order that variety unless you just want a few packages to test them out. I would aim for finding somewhere that sells them for no more than $1.50 per 7 to 9oz package, including shipping.