Friday, May 1, 2009

Shirataki Noodles: The Review

It’s been a freakin’ bowl of cherries, but National Ants Are Invading My Kitchen Week has finally come to an end. The Boyfriend and I went Wolverine on them a few days ago, and have seen nary an antennae or thorax since. In retrospect, it’s a relief they were only ants, and not the pterodactyl-sized “waterbugs” that tend to hang around my fine borough in warmer weather. (Note: KNOCKING ON MANY PIECES OF WOOD.)

For the first post-insect dish, I decided to try shirataki noodles. There are several different kinds of these guys, but recently, the tofu variety from House Foods has become particularly huge, thanks to exhaustive endorsements from Hungry Girl.

When it comes to dieters and folks with allergies, there are definite advantages to choosing shirataki noodles over pasta or rice. House Foods brand is vegan, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and relatively guilt-free. Each ½-cup serving comes out to about 20 calories, and sources say they generally take well to Asian-style dishes. While there’s a rinsing process, the noodles don’t need to be boiled for any length of time, making them conveniently heat-n-serve.

However (and there’s always a however), there are drawbacks. First, some claim shirataki noodles aren’t much good in Italian dishes. Second, the lighter caloric load means they won’t necessarily fill you up, either.

Finally – and most significantly - there’s the price. Shirataki noodles come in 8-oz. bags filled with water (for preservation). After draining, this is just about a single cup of actual noodles. My Key Food charges $1.50 for this on sale, or $0.75 per ½-cup serving. Of noodles. Just noodles.

To compare, a single 1-lb. box of Ronzoni thin spaghetti costs $0.66 on sale, and produces about four cups of cooked pasta. That’s roughly $0.08 per ½-cup serving. Rice noodles are more expensive, at about $0.45 per ½-serving, but are still a bargain comparatively. I’m not even gonna get into rice itself, because my brain hurts now.

Of course, the deciding factor for any food should be its taste. And in that sense, the shirataki noodles were okay. Not good, not bad. Just okay. They barely have a flavor, actually. I prepared them with peppers, onions, chicken, and Cook’s Illustrated Orange Sesame Stir Fry Sauce, and they blended seamlessly into the mix. I suspect they’d go very well with ramen-style dishes, too.

Ultimately, my verdict is this: unless you have allergies, certain dietary restrictions, or are a VERY beginning dieter, shirataki noodles may not be the best buy. There are tastier, significantly cheaper ways to cut calories.

Have a great weekend everyone. Monday, we're back to bug-free posting. (To repeat: wood, she is being knocked on.)

Orange Sesame Stir Fry with Shirataki Noodles
Serves 3 or 4
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Best 30-Minute Recipe.

½ cup orange juice
¼ cup soy sauce, plus 1 separate teaspoon
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 bell peppers (any kind), sliced into strips
1 medium onion, sliced into thick strips
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bag House Foods shirataki noodles, drained and rinsed

1) In a small bowl, combine orange juice. 1/4 cup soy sauce, broth, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Whisk it all together. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, coat chicken in the other 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.

2) In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 teaspoons veggie oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned. Using tongs, remove it to a dish

3) Add 1 tablespoon veggie oil to the skillet. Add veggies. Saute them until they're crisp-tender, another few minutes.

4) Spread veggies around the perimeter of the pan and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of veggie oil. Add garlic and ginger. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant.

5) Add chicken back to skillet and stir everything together. Heat until warmed, a minute or two.

6) Re-whisk orange-sesame sauce, and add it to skillet. Bring everything up to a simmer. Cook for another minute or two, until the sauce is thickened. (It will thicken. Don't worry.) Add noodles and warm through. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
Three servings: 389 calories, 15.4 g fat, $1.87
Four servings: 291 calories, 11.6 g fat, $1.40

½ cup orange juice: 55 calories, 0 g fat, $0.16
¼ cup soy sauce, plus 1 separate teaspoon: 37 calories, 0 g fat, $0.40
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth: 22 calories, 0.75 g fat, $0.06
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil: 80 calories, 9 g fat, $0.12
2 teaspoons cornstarch: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
2 tablespoons vegetable oil: 256 calories, 29 g fat, $0.18
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces: 497 calories, 5.4 g fat, $1.69
3 bell peppers (any kind), sliced into strips: 98 calories, 1 g fat, $1.09
1 medium onion, sliced into thick strips: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.24
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced: 11 calories, 0 g fat, $0.12
1 bag House Foods shirataki noodles, drained and rinsed: 40 calories, $1.50
TOTAL: 1167 calories, 46.25 g fat, $5.61
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 389 calories, 15.4 g fat, $1.87
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 291 calories, 11.6 g fat, $1.40

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Sarah said...

..."thanks to exhaustive endorsements from Hungry Girl."

Exhaustive is definitely the word to describe HG's writing. I used to be a frequent reader but got annoyed because all she talked about was Shirataki noodles and fiber. I got so annoyed and wrote her an email asking if she could please discuss something else for a change. She wrote back disagreeing that she talked about the above topics too much and that I didn't have to read her site if I didn't want to.

Rete said...

I tried the larger fettucini type shiratakis and found them rather chewy. Not bad on taste, but the texture really did me in -- I haven't tried the spaghetti shaped ones, though.

Persimmon said...

I made it and it was so yummy! I won't lie I was pretty impressed with myself. Although I'm not sure what I was thinking going to Vons and expecting to find shirataki noodles, so I used Egg noodles and I bought all green peppers on accident (don't ask me how that happens, I don't know) and I didn't wait to put in the garlic and ginger until the veggies were tender...but still with all of my mishaps, it turned out great and I got the boyfriend seal of approval! THANK YOU!!

KenyonJen said...

Has anyone else had issues with the way the Shirataki noodles SMELL??? I didn't mind the taste or texture so much, but I could barely eat 3 bites because (even after the prescribed rinsing) the smell was making me sick...kind of an old-seafood-sweaty-sneaker smell.

So I guess as far as diet foods go, eating these things would help me cut calories, because I'd be, you know, not eating.... :-/

Kalyn said...

I have to agree, I was rather underwhelmed with them myself. I think for a diet-friend pasta, you can't go wrong with Dreamfield's.

Sujan Patricia said...

Although, they seem tasteless to me, they do add some 'bulk' to my meal. thnx.

Anonymous said...

I love these noodles. Well, love may not be the right word, but we do have a serious relationship. I agree that the texture is unusual and took some getting used to, and if I was one of those people who could eat anything and stay thin, I would't have given them a second try, BUT asside from the texture, and I did get used to it, they are great. I rinse them well and chop them up and add them to almost every main dish. I read a comment somewhere that because they had no calories, they didn't fill you up, but my experience was the opposite. They make my soups, stews, stirfries, curries, etc, MORE filling and, also unlike some other's experience, they have a totally beneficial effect on digestion. Different people react differently, so I'm not saying they'll work that way for you, but don't be put off by negative reports because that wasn't my experience at all. Also I have no problem with the fishy smell -- it goes away after a quick rince -- just mush them up with your fingers to break up clumps and get the water to every strand.

Kelsey said...

I think I'm going to buy a package and just try them to see how they taste. I've heard they are chewy, so I'm unsure, but I love pasta and would love to have it more regularly and have it also fit into my diet.

Anonymous said...

I found these at Meijer yesterday and went home to cook them up. I rinsed them really good in cold water then par boiled them in chicken stock. I then took onion, green pepper, tomatoes and seasoning and sauted them all togehter then put the noodles in them. is really good and I am a pasta love to the point my husband told me I couldn't use pasta in our meals again until he told me it was ok. Now this is one easy way for me to have pasta anytime I want with not too much trouble. I highly recommend them.

Anonymous said...

The smell really does go away when you rinse and boil them for 2-3 minutes. I mixed them with Asian stir fry sauce and some sliced scallions. I was decent. I will concede that the texture is weird, kind of rubbery.

Anonymous said...

The tofu ones have a bit of a taste. I prefer the regular ones, which are about $1.20 from the Asian Market, in China Town. For these I drain the fishy water, then rinse with hot water for a minute, then pat/smoosh dry with a paper towel. Next in a skillet with high heat I put sesame or olive oil and add the noodles before anything else in the stir fry. the noodles get heat the entire time about 7-10mins for entire dish. The taste is fantastic.

robert and kerri said...

Just bought these noodles today! I have to say I love them!!! I rinsed them thoroughly as packaged said to get the juice out that they are I guess persevered in...and both my husban loved it! He said they taste like ramen noodles! I was a bit scared bc a lot of people talked negatively about how slimy and chewy they are but they aren't. Yippee! I'm so glad cause I love noodles and am glad I can eat 8 ou bag of noodles for only 40 calories!