Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pasta that Wasn't

Sometime ago, a friend who was dealing with oh-so-fun gestational diabetes reminded me about shirataki -- a Japanese noodle made from konnyaku (from the yam family) -- which is carb-free and extremely low calorie.

We eat this often in hot pots and stews, but I had forgotten about shirataki as a pretend-pasta noodles without any carbs.

Recently, when I serve up pasta with meat sauce for the family, I find myself feeling a little deprived, eating pasta sauce over steamed broccoli and cauliflower.... For me, there's a lot of comfort in diving into a huge bowl of piping hot pasta. I miss that. A LOT.

But since my friend reminded me of shirataki, I did a little research and I found this. Apparently, the konnyaku industry has been catering quite a bit to dieters such as myself and I've found a few websites who sell this stuff. You can read more details about it here.

Luckily, I found the new "pasta type" shirataki at my local Japanese food market and gave it a try last night while everyone else was enjoying their bowls of delicious carbs with meat sauce.

Hmmmm.

A big "Meh!" is my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, the shirataki itself is as it should be -- it tastes like shirataki. The texture is shirataki and not pasta, of course, so it's like chewy jello. They did a really good job trying to make it look like fettuccine by mixing it with tofu and getting the color and dimensions right.

But eating shirataki noodles with meat sauce? It didn't really hit the spot.

But after some thought, I realized what it needed was a more Asian type sauce to complement the strong shirataki "presence" (the flavor and chewy texture) and today, I mixed it up with a special cod roe spaghetti sauce we often use in Japan.

Now, I know that if you aren't Asian, your first reaction isn't going to be "Yum! I can't wait to have that COD ROE on my pasta!" But the stuff is pretty good in a caviar kind of way -- perhaps better because there's some butter in it.

I thought the sauce complemented the shirataki noodles a lot better than the meat sauce. And inspired me to try stir frying it like you would Chinese chow fun. Well, next time.

So, the shirataki fettuccine isn't really going to work as a pasta substitute for me -- it would make me too sad to pretend that it's pasta because it really is nothing like it. But with the appropriate sauces, I think it can be enjoyed as a healthy, carb-free shirataki dish and possibly, we'll find out, pretend-chow fun.

And when you're on the South Beach Diet, that's a great thing.

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