This title is not a joke. Of course the above bowl’s content doesn’t have zero calories, but the white, slightly transparent threads have zero – or almost – calories. They are also healthy, natural and I still remember being totally blown away when I discovered them at my Japanese grocer’s. Shirataki (白滝 orしらたき), sometimes called konnyaku noodles or ito konnyaku 糸蒟蒻 (see Hiroyuki’s and Nami’s comments below), are made from konjak (Amorphophallus konjac, also called devil’s tongue, yam or konnyaku), which is transformed into flour and then mixed with water to produce a sort of gelatinous, transparent substance. The latter is sold most often in two basic forms: noodles (shirataki or ito konnyaku) and rectangular, often brownish, blocks (ita konnyaku). Both are sold in bags filled with water and, kept in the fridge, they have a very long shelf life.
In Japan noodles and rectangular blocks are usually used in stews and soups. The blocks are often torn into pieces to increase the surface which will absorb more flavours and juices. See how in the Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂) opening (my beloved tv series), Master tears into pieces a block of konnyaku to prepare tonjiru (a pork soup):
If you want to see a detailed and well explained tonjiru recipe, go to Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking. His post and appetising photos made me crave a bowl of shirataki and gave me the idea of today’s post too! Thank you, Hiroyuki, for the inspiration!
Konnyaku is very rich in fiber, and so are shirataki. Visually they resemble the Chinese glass noodles: they are also transparent, have hardly any taste and absorb the flavours from sauces and food products they are cooked with. The main difference is that shirataki’s caloric value approaches zero (to be exact it’s about 3 kcal per 100g, which beats even the cucumber)! The high fiber they contain regulates the digestion, makes one feel they are very filling and suppresses the hunger, while the low-calorie and low-carb intake allows even the biggest diet freak to enjoy a fabulous bowl of noodles. I have also read on many websites that konnyaku is called in Japan “the broom for the stomach” due to its high fiber content. Both, noodles and block, keep for a very long time in the fridge, so it’s easy to have them at hand. In short, it’s THE wonder food!
Before passing to the recipe I would like to show you the wonderful knife I won a couple of weeks ago in 5 Euro Food‘s giveaway and which I am thrilled to use every day. I don’t want to make a free ad for this brand, but just say that if you still don’t have a high quality knife, do get you one! Cutting is easier, quicker, lighter, the grip is perfectly comfortable… This knife is also a particularly beautiful object with its unusually coloured, slightly reddish wooden handle (it also has my initials engraved on the other side of the blade!). Needless to say, cutting is now my favourite pastime! Thank you, Charles, for this lovely gift!
This recipe is just one of the cook-what-you-have-in-the-fridge examples of stir-fried noodles I make. It is not particularly Japanese, nor Chinese, it’s just a simple dish I had for my lunch yesterday and if it wasn’t for shirataki, I would never post such an ordinary stir-fry.
UPDATE: Hiroyuki and Nami, thank you so much for your precious feedback!
Preparation: 20 minutes
Ingredients (serves one):
1 package shirataki
50 g chicken breast
1 small green chili
1 small courgette
1 big shallot or small onion
1 garlic clove
1 cm fresh ginger
grilled sesame seeds
oil for stir-frying
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or 2 tablespoons regular soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon corn starch
Rinse the noodles with cold water and boil for 2-3 minutes (dont’ be scared of the initial unpleasant smell; it will disappear).
Rinse them once more and put aside.
Combine all the sauce ingredients.
Cut the chicken breast into thin strips. Season with salt and pepper.
Peel the garlic clove and ginger and chop them finely.
Slice the shallot and the chili.
Cut the courgette into long pieces.
Heat some oil in a pan. Add first the garlic and the ginger, then after a minute, add the onion.
Fry it about a minute, stirring.
Then add the chicken and the chili pepper.
Stir fry until the chicken is cooked.
At the end add the courgette and fry it for about two minutes to keep it crunchy (or more if your prefer it soft).
Finally, add the noodles and the sauce with corn starch.
Fry everything, constantly stirring, until the sauce thickens.
Serve sprinkled with grilled sesame seeds.