Shirataki, the strangest noodle: Ken Albala shares his recipe


This is the strangest noodle I have ever made, and doing it from scratch is more like an alchemical experiment than an exercise in cooking. Among everything in this book, this is one recipe where the procedure and measurements really need to be followed precisely or it won’t work. I’m not sure if that makes it any less fun, because these are seriously bizarre.

First of all, they have no calories. They also have no flavor. Weirdest of all, they don’t get mushy the longer you cook them, and if you want to store them, you have to put them in water (unlike virtually any other noodle on the planet). You can actually buy these in a Japanese grocery in a block, green or white, that can be cut, or in noodle form in a little plastic bag filled with water. To make them at home you’ll need to order a few odd ingredients. Konjac flour is sold under the Miracle Noodle brand. The calcium hydroxide is also used to make tamales, so you can find it in any Mexican grocery.

1 1/2 tablespoons glucomannan, also called konjac flour

2 1/2 cups water in a small pot

1/4 teaspoon calcium hydroxide (cal, or pickling lime) dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

large pot filled with water not quite at a boil

Whisk the powdered konjac and water in a small pot and let it sit undisturbed on the counter for 10 minutes. Cook on medium heat on the stove, mix for 4 minutes, and let cool. Add the cal dissolved in water and stir in well. The whole thing suddenly becomes a solid mass. Gather this together and put into an extruder and extrude directly into the water which is not boiling. Agitate the water a little so the noodles don’t stick together. Raise the heat and boil for 30 minutes. Then rinse in cold water and store in water in the fridge until ready to use.

You can use these traditional Japanese noodles in just about any hot soup. They stay chewy and don’t really absorb flavors, either. My favorite way to eat them is in a cold soup with fruit, even in a glass of sake with some lychees or mangosteen. They seem to offset the fruit nicely with texture. I have also extruded shapes of shirataki noodles. A fusilli die make strange ragged tubes that look and feel in the mouth very much like squid. There are many possibilities. If you don’t have an extruder, you can also pinch off little shapes and toss into water. The thickness doesn’t seem to matter as it’s not really cooking from the outside inward, like most other noodles. Curioser and curioser.

Read more in Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession by Ken Albala