Shirataki (白滝, often written with the hiragana しらたき) are thin, translucent, gelatinous traditional Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam . The word “shirataki” means “white waterfall”, describing the appearance of these noodles. Largely composed of water and glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fibre, they are very low in digestible carbohydrates and calories, and have little flavour of their own.
Shirataki noodles can be found both in dry and soft “wet” forms in Asian markets and some supermarkets. When purchased wet, they are packaged in liquid. They normally have a shelf life of up to one year. Some brands may require rinsing or parboiling, as the water in which the noodles are packaged may have an odour some perceive as unpleasant.
Alternatively, the noodles can be drained and dry-roasted, which diminishes bitterness and gives the noodles a more pasta-like consistency. Dry-roasted noodles may be added to soup stock or have a sauce added to them.
The glucomannan noodles come from the root of an Asian plant called konjac (full name Amorphophallus konjac). It has been nicknamed the elephant yam, and also called konjaku, konnyaku, or the konnyaku potato.
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Shirataki also goes by the names “ito konnyaku”, yam noodles, and devil’s tongue noodles.
Ito Konnyaku and Shirataki
There used to be a difference in manufacturing methods; in the Kansai region of Japan, ito konnyaku was prepared by cutting konnyaku jelly into threads, while in the Kantō region, shirataki was prepared by extruding konnyaku sol through small holes into a hot lime solution in high concentration. Nowadays, both are prepared using the latter method. Ito konnyaku is generally thicker than shirataki, with a square cross section and a darker colour. It is preferred in the Kansai region.