Monday, August 29, 2011

Shirataki in Shiitake Broth

Say that five times, real quick. Maybe you've noticed this fairly new product in the tofu/tempeh section of your local natural foods store. Tofu shirataki are Japanese noodles made from a combination of tofu and yam flour--with little to offer nutritionally speaking (1 gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber per serving), but it's fun to eat if you like noodles. They're quite firm to the tooth, almost leaning toward the crunchy side, but they wiggle nicely and offer that slurpable quality with which Japanese noodle aficionados are well-acquainted.

To take them out for my first test-drive, I decided on a very quick, simple route: noodles in broth. I began by preparing a classic kombu dashi (without the shaved bonito flakes), which takes a little time, because the broth must be brought up to just below a simmer very slowly. This prevents the kombu from turning bitter and spoiling the broth, but it also helps leach the flavor and nutrients out of the seaweed--which of course is the whole point of this exercise. While I was waiting, I set a few dried shiitake mushrooms to soak in a little warm water. Once the broth was lightly colored, I removed the kombu (saving it to add to a batch of brown rice later) and added a little tamari, sake, and mirin.

Once the mushrooms had softened, I sliced them about an eighth-inch thick and added them to the broth, along with their woodsy-fragrant soaking water, and brought the mixture to a simmer. Shiitake mushrooms cook up nicely in just a few minutes.

In a separate pot, I par-boiled the noodles to remove the "authentic aroma," as the package directed. I guess authentic shirataki smell a little like four-day-old fish. Good call to get rid of that, package guys! Not everything authentic enjoys universal appeal.

After rinsing the noodles, I added them to the pot with the mushrooms and reheated the broth. I added a few scallions, sliced thinly on a slight diagonal, and that was that. On a sudden whim, as a final touch, I threw in a pinch of pickled shiso powder--a uniquely salty-sour macrobiotic condiment.

If you've never had the pleasure of shoving noodles and mushrooms into your mouth with chopsticks and slurping them up along with a flavorful broth from the lip of the bowl, I highly recommend trying it at least once. You don't have to use tofu shirataki for this; you'll also enjoy buckwheat soba--my favorite--or regular old wheat ramen, if you're not on a gluten-free diet.

Because these noodles are totally carbohydrate-free, this dish makes a light, tasty--and highly entertaining--snack, or an idea appetizer for a multi-course meal. Shiitake mushrooms are highly medicinal, with some research indicating they help lower the "bad" cholesterol, prevent platelet aggregation, protect the liver, fight cancer, and boost the immune system. They taste good too, which is very important--some would say paramount.


  1. Yum! I love shirataki noodles! I had some with my tofu for lunch today actually. In Asian restaurants they have other brands with 0 calories. It kind of freaks me out, because a noodle of that substance should have calories, right? :) I like them though!

  2. I love shirataki noodles and Add noodles and veggies and toss to combine the noodles and coat them evenly with sauce..Awesome...

  3. I am not currently vegan so I do eat these noodles, but if I was I wouldn't. I have spent nearly an hour searching the net for a logical explanation for why they smell so strongly of fish, and have found nothing. Has anyone found a logical explanation for the smell? None of the listed ingredients point to it.