A common addition to many Japanese dishes is a substance called Konjac (Konnyaku in Japanese which may sound confusingly like Cognac). It’s a peculiar, virtually tasteless gelatinous mass that admittedly has an excellent texture to it.
What may come as a shock to millions of Japanese people is that America is beginning to embrace this garnish not as the Japanese have, but as a replacement for conventional pasta.
Thanks to the West’s keen marketing sense, Japan’s often underappreciated purplish-grey slab gelatin has been reborn there as Miracle Noodles!
First a little background on Konjac. It’s produced in warm subtropical regions of Asia made from a plant that goes by many names and kind of resembles a yam. The plant is then ground into a powder and made into a gelatin like substance. Naturally this gelatin is white colored but because hijiki is added it gains a rather unappealing grey hue.
Although the healthy nature of Konjac is well known in Japan, its general lack of taste relegates it to simply adding texture to dishes like sukiyaki. It’s hardly considered a food that stands on its own. Depending on the dish it’s either added in its slab form or in a thin noodle form called Ito Konnyaku (Thread Konjac) or Shirataki.
Leave to the US to take this food stuff and sexify it to the nth degree. Goodbye Shirataki, and hello “Miracle Noodles!”
Some enterprising Americans had the idea to sell this foodstuff to a nation full of would-be dieters – and it’s working. With appearances in popular magazines like Men’s Health and television appearances on Rachael Ray, the massive masses are really getting behind it.
The Konjac used in miracle noodles don’t have hijiki leaving it a white color more appealing and similar to pasta. They are also cut into noodle shapes resembling familiar pastas like spaghetti and fettuccini. On top of that, because it’s already gelatinous, there’s no need to actually cook it. Just heat it to your preference and add whatever sauce or topping you like.
It’s a marketing department’s dream since it covers all the diet fad buzz words in one product. It’s fat free, calorie free, sugar free, starch free, and best of all gluten free. What is does have is fiber, so let’s say you’re a little backed up after eating a Whopper with 1000 slices of cheese, Miracle Noodles may just live up to their name.
To further show that this trend is just starting to take off, we see the emergence of Tofu Shirataki which combines Asia’s two blandest food items (Tofu and Konjac) into one – as a pasta. There’s a fine line between genius and madness.
Having lived in Japan for a long time I really enjoy Konjac, especially in Oden, and I think it’s cool that western countries are getting in on it too. And yet, I couldn’t help but cock an eyebrow and chuckle when I saw a video of a man pouring tomato sauce over an entire plate of shirataki. Just imagine the amazement Japanese people get from it.
It’d be kind of like seeing Japanese people eat a huge pile of bacon… oh wait.
News Report on the Wonders of Shirataki
▼ Looks like macaroni but made entirely from tofu and konjac.
▼ This version of Miracle Noodle resembles the Japanese Shirataki