Tama Konnyaku with Bacon and Shiitake, or Zero-Calorie Gnocchi

If you have read this post about Shirataki, or Konnyaku noodles, you probably remember what konnyaku is. As a reminder, it’s a Japanese plant also called konjak, devilโ€™s tongue or yamย (Amorphophallus konjac), transformed into flour and then mixed with water to produce a sort of gelatinous, transparent substance, which is usually formed into noodles or rectangular blocks.

Until a couple of weeks ago I had thought the above where the only forms in which konnyaku was sold. This was before I saw these:

They are called “tama konnyaku” and translated as konnyaku balls, although in my opinion they look more like gnocchi. Just like the noodles and the rectangles, these are sold in bags filled with water, have almost zero calories, no carbs, contain lots of fiber and give a very quick sensation of satiety. I have bought them and only afterwards started to wonder how to prepare them. Thanks to Hiroyuki’s (Hiroyuki’s Blog on Japanese Cooking) kind translation of some Japanese recipes, I was finally ready to cook. I have also learnt, thanks to Hiroyuki, that my tama konnyaku were not just any tame konnyaku, but a high quality product. Another reason to cook them properly!

I have decided to combine both recipes I was kindly given, substituting dried squid with dashi (as Hiroyuki advised), modified them a bit and then had this crazy idea to add fried bacon (or the smoked lean pork you see on the above photo), onions and shiitake. The result was a surprisingly good combination of Japanese and Western flavours, giving a false high-calorie feeling (especially when lean pork is used). Black pepper somehow binds this fusion.

Preparation: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1/2 package of tama konnyaku

5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or 3 tablespoons normal soy sauce)

10 tablespoons dashi

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon potato or corn starch

1 tablespoon oil

5-6 fresh or dried, sliced shiitake (if dried, soak them in boiling water until they are soft)

50 g bacon or lean smoked pork (sliced)

1 onion (sliced)

lots of freshly ground black pepper

Drain and rinse tama konnyaku. Cook them in boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Rinse them once more.

Put aside.

Heat the oil in a pan.

Fry the onion on low heat until it softens.

Add the bacon or lean smoked pork and shiitake.

Fry at higher heat until shiitake are cooked.

Put the onion, the bacon and the mushrooms in a bowl.

Without washing the pan, stir-fry tama konnyaku for a couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, the dashi, the sake and the water shiitake were soaked in if you used dried shiitake.

When half of the liquid has evaporated, add the cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water and stir well so that it coats well tama konnyaku.

At the end add the onion and the bacon, ground black pepper, heat everything in the pan and serve.

43 Replies to “Tama Konnyaku with Bacon and Shiitake, or Zero-Calorie Gnocchi”

  1. Congratulations on your success in making a flavorful dish using tama konnyaku!! As always, I enjoy reading about your creativity in using a Japanese ingredient in a Western-style dish. Combining konnyaku with bacon is not such a crazy idea, though, because konnyaku is neutral in flavor (although you may find it smelly when you open the pack) and is capable of absorbing flavor from other ingredients. When you think of oden, where various ingredients are put in a pot of dashi, you will see what I mean.

    As inspired by your previous post on shirataki, I’ve been thinking of using both ito konnyaku and shirataki in a certain dish. (At least in my area, ito konnyaku and shirataki are not the same; the former is thicker than the latter.)

    1. Thank you for the compliments, Hiroyuki. I have made it thanks to you! The recipes you have kindly translated were an excellent basis for this dish! It’s funny to use a completely unknown product one has never had before and trying to cook it.
      You are right! Bacon and onions (and pepper) have a very strong flavour, so it’s perfect for neutral konnyaku (it is very smelly when I open the package indeed!). I am very curious about your ito konnyaku and shirataki dish! (In the meantime I have a huge stock of tama konnyaku in the fridge, three kinds of low-calorie, super-healthy konnyaku products encourage me to eat more of it and, hopefully, invent more different dishes).

  2. So many fantastic flavours going on here – the combination of bacon and shiitake alone had me sold – but with the heartiness of the tama konnyaku and the addition of pepper pulling it all together, you have assembled a true power meal. I love that I am always learning about new ingredients and fresh combinations on your blog.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. Since I discovered one of the shops here sells smoked pork loin I substitute bacon wherever I can. Thanks to leaner pork and konnyaku “gnocchi” it was a very hearty and very healthy meal.

  3. I’m not a fan of gnocchi at all because the times I had it at a restaurant, it always seems like a mouthful of chewy dough. Perhaps I’ve never had a good gnocchi. I wouldn’t mind trying these at all since I like a very low carb diet.

    1. The only gnocchi I like are potato gnocchi (not necessarily Italian, Polish ones can be excellent, I haven’t had them for ages though…) but these only have a form of gnocchi. They must have something like 9 kcal per 100 grams, zero carbs and lots of fiber. The texture has got nothing to do with anything I have ever had in my life, but I love konnyaku.

  4. hmmmmm, interesting! I had never heard of this before. I love all Japanese noodles, and really enjoy experimenting with them. I will keep my eyes open for these and hopefully find them and get to try them!

    Thanks Sissi!! As always, you inspire me!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Nice one, creative and unique. I certainly recognise a few ingredients – bacon, onions, oil…My mission to get more closely acquainted with Japanese ingredients has not taken off yet – and I keep getting friendly reminders from you. I have seen those round things in the Asian shop but it could have been something completely different. BTW I am sure you know what konyak is in Russian. That could be a good addition to your dish, or as a side:)

        1. Thank you! I would have maybe recognised if you wrote ะšะžะะฌะฏะš ๐Ÿ˜‰ just joking! (I read Russian, but don’t speak it nor understand it). Do you mean they have a Russian copy of cognac? It sounds scary…

            1. Wow! I am surprised, but I may be biaised with my experience (many many times…) of the Russian “Champagne” ๐Ÿ˜‰ In general I’m not a fan of cognac (I like Armagnac).

              1. And it’s also a very bad idea to copy French alcohol names. Cognac is simply cognac. Champagne is champagne, etc.. I think they should change names to something different and maybe we wouldn’t have an idea of a bad copy…

                1. Soviet champagne and red wine is quite ‘different’ to put it politely. Its an acquired taste, I totally understand your bias, I don’t really like it either. On the other hand cognac, beer and vodka are pretty good. There are restrictions on the use of names such as cognac, champagne, roquefort etc but this does not stop many manufacturers. The Soviets may argue that vodka produced in NZ should not be called vodka, same with whisky etc. Lets just drink and be happy. Which reminds me, this is a post on konjak the food, not cognac the drink, and its not even Friday:)

                  1. I must say I have never tried red wine… As for the name, the thing is champagne comes from the region called Champagne and even in France other regions have no right to call it champagne even if the production is exactly the same. Same for cognac. It can’t be compared to vodka, which simply means vaguely alcohol and has the same name in several languages. I don’t think the problem is always with the taste (although in the case of all the false French or Italian cheese varieties it is…), but with the name copies.
                    You re right about our discussion. Actually it makes me want to post something about alcohol on Friday…

  6. What a soul-warming dish you made there, Sissi! I feel warm just looking at the bowl. Konnyaku is my favorite too when it comes to high-fiber food with near-zero calories. I also love how its blandness makes it really versatile. Other than using it in stir-fried dishes and soup (have you tried it in miso soup? yummy!), I remember one time I even made an Indonesian dessert using konnyaku, banana, coconut milk, and brown sugar. It totally worked!
    Anyway, I can`t imagine how you will be amused by so many varieties of konnyaku sold here! Oh I wish I can sneak in my camera and take photos of them in the store for you ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Thank you, Arudhi! I wish I could see all the konnyaku varieties you talk about. I am already very happy to have several different ones here… Tama konnyaku is I think quite recent. I have konnyaku dishes whenever I indulge in deep-fried food the day before or at lunch or if I plan to indulge in high calorie meal afterwards ๐Ÿ™‚
      Your Indonesian dessert sounds so unusual and delicious! You are such a creative cookn!

  7. That looks delicious, and again I am so drawn to the “zero calories” factor of this dish! Gotta remind myself to look for this the next time I go to a proper Asian super market. It’s strange how much fun I can have now a days grocery shopping!

    1. Thank you, Jeno! Look first for konnyaku noodles, they are very similar to glass noodles. These balls have only gnocchi shape, but aren’t similar neither in taste nor in texture.

  8. Whaaa, you never cease to amaze me Sissi – this looks wonderful, and you’ve really piqued my interest about this almost-gnocchi. What’s the overall flavour and consistency like compared to gnocchi, because I just love that stuff. I reckon they’ll sell this at the Japanese store in Paris – looking forward to trying it out. Healthy lunches, yay!

    1. Thanks, Charles. I am sure you will find konnyaku in the Japanese shop. Unfortunately these are not similar in consistency to Italian gnocchi. They are harder and more elastic… If I were you I’d try the konnyaku noodles first!

  9. zero calories…I like the sound of that….I really need to find a proper japanese store..such amazing and healthy dishes in store…Sissi, as always, you have introduced mew to something very exciting and healthy…

    1. I’m so happy to see – or rather read – you, Shilpa! Thank you for the kind words. I hope you find at least a good shop online. Good luck with your future blog! Can’t wait to see the changes.

  10. A mouthwatering dish. I’ve never had konyaku, but I’m sure I’d love them. Your recipe is just fabulous!



  11. Just connected to your site via Greg’s.

    I was about to say that I’ve never heard of tama konnyaku until I wife informed me that I’ve actually consumed the long noodle form. oops.:-)

    Serious though this looks fantastic and you can always count me in when shiitakes and pork are included.


    1. Thank you, Sportsglutton! I am very happy to see you on my blog! I also love all the combinations of mushroom and smoked pork ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I’ve seen these funny little things in packets at the stores and I’ve been wondering what they use them for. They do remind me of the Chinese Hakka Yam/Taro Gnocchi which they call Abacus seeds that my mum inlaw makes. Gosh! They are heavy! Heavy as in super heavy in the tummy, very filling … not one of my favorite foods. Is this a lighter texture than gnocchi? Looks yummy! And if I ever make this and like it, I can’t let mum inlaw know. She’ll kill me for liking this and not her yam version. Shhh ….

    1. Thank you, Ping! Their idea is that they are filling, keep you off eating for many hours, but have zero carbs and almost zero calories. A perfect lunch after a previous night with lots of tempura ๐Ÿ˜‰ The texture is even heavier than gnocchi! There are firm and chewy, but I love them. They are a bit like science-fiction product for me.
      The noodle form of konnyaku is very similar to glass noodles, though. It doesn’t feel heavy at all, although it is very filling.

  13. Hi Sissi! First of all what a beautiful presentation!! I love the bowl and light shines your food beautifully. I’ve never used tama konnyaku before. And I don’t think I’ve seen any kind of package near where I live. You’ve been very good at making low calorie food Sissi. I made a big pasta dish tonight probably triple calories than this dish! It’s amazing you use new ingredients and create a dish that looks delicious like this.

    1. THank you so much Nami! I also love the bowl (one of my recent Japanese shop buys ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), the colour is something between green, grey and blue, but my photographing skills are not good enough to show it maybe… I am surprised you like the light! Thank you for the compliments! (Between us, even though I love konnyaku, I couldn’t have it all the time instead of other noodles or pasta… I am sure your pasta dish was delicious!)

    1. Thank you, Martyna! Actually it was very accidental and there were at least 50% chances it would end up inedible.

  14. Thanks for describing this, Sissi, as I had no idea what it was! I’m loving this dish…especially the zero calorie aspect. How can you say no to that?! Looks delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. You always have such interesting foods on your blog! And I always feel like I’m learning about something new ๐Ÿ™‚ This looks very tasty! As far as I know, I’ve never tried these before, but I might have and just not known it!

    1. Thank you, Stefanie. I think you would know if you had konnyaku balls ๐Ÿ˜‰ They are quite hard and chewy, but I like them a lot!

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