Vegan Grandma

Monday, October 23, 2006

"An overwhelming love and compassion for all living creatures, both man and beast, is the highest virtue that could be conceived of. Vegetarian food is intended not only for the cleansing of the body but also for the purification of the soul. It is a universally accepted principle that vegetarian food is conductive to a healthier and happier life among nations."

S. Sankaranarayara Rao, quoted in V.S.S.A. News Magazine, September/October 1981
Shirataki Noodles

I just discovered shirataki noodles (yam noodles) at an Asian market. I think I’m the only person in the world who didn’t know about this. Shirataki, a traditional Japanese food, has recently become popular with low-carb dieters. In case you haven’t heard about them, either, here is some information I was able to find about shirataki noodles.

Shirataki noodles are very low in carbohydrates, fat, and sodium. The low carbohydrate content makes this a good alternative to other noodles for diabetics.

According to the package, one fifth of a 16-ounce package has 8 percent of the U.S. recommended daily requirement of iron.

Shirataki noodles are vegan, according to the ingredient list on the package. Related products, konnyaku ( yam cake) and tofu shirataki noodles may not be vegan. Konnyaku, a gelatinous cake made from the same plant (Amorphallus konjac) may not be vegan, because it may contain calcium hydroxide or oxide calcium which is extracted from eggshells or shell fish. Tofu shirataki contains tofu as well as yam flour. It is not vegan because it also contains calcium hydroxide.

Shirataki noodles are made from the starchy root of the Amorphallus konjac plant. It contains glucomannan, a dietary fiber which is supposed to reduce the appetite and stabilize blood sugar levels.

The word shirataki means "white waterfall," because of the way the noodles look.

Shirataki noodles are sold in Asian markets in water-packed pouches, in the refrigerated section. There is also dried shirataki which rehydrates well, but I have not seen this.

The noodles have little flavor of their own, but they easily absorb flavors from other food with which they are prepared (sort of like tofu).

The noodles have a slight fishy smell which disappears when boiled for a minute. If you wish, you can add soy sauce and sesame oil to the boiling water for extra flavor.

Ito konnyaku is similar to shirataki, but thicker.

Shirataki is traditionally used in Japanese simmered dishes, or sauteed with hijiki (sea vegetable), but you can use them any way you would use other noodles. Shirataki is not as absorbent as other noodles, so you don’t need to add as much sauce as you normally would.

Shirataki is not as filling as regular starchy noodles, but since they are lower in calories and carbohydrates, and are low in fat, you can eat more. I finished off an entire 16-ounce package myself, along with a bit of spaghetti sauce and a little vegan " Parmesan", and a green salad.

If you do a search on vegan "shirataki recipes", you will find some good recipes. The following is from Food of Japan, by Shirley Booth, published by Interlink Books, page144.

Yam Cake Noodles and Bean Sprout Salad With Vinegar Mustard Dressing

7 ounces bean sprouts

7 ounces shirataki noodles (I used half of a 16-ounce package)


1 teaspoon ready mixed Japanese mustard

3 teaspoons mirin (sweet cooking "sake", available at Asian markets)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sweet white miso

1 teaspoon soy sauce

Immerse the sprouts in a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Add the shirataki noodles to the boiling water, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove, place in cold water to cool and drain. Chop the noodles into 1-inch lengths.

Combine the dressing ingredients and mix to a smooth paste. Squeeze out any excess water from the sprouts and noodles, and combine with the dressing. Serve immediately at room temperature.