One of the staples in Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien’s arsenal of low-calorie foods is Tofu Shirataki “noodle substitute.” She began touting this semi-obscure product, made by Japanese company House Foods, years ago, and now her familiar logo appears on the package. Thanks in large part to Hungry Girl, the 20-calorie-per-serving noodles can now be found everywhere from Whole Foods to FreshDirect.
As someone who loves pasta and enjoys tofu as well, I was intrigued at the notion of these guilt-free noodles. I’ll admit that the first time I tried them, I was less than impressed. I found them slimy, slightly rubbery and had trouble getting past the weird smell inside the liquid-filled package. But Hungry Girl offers some tips I should have followed: In her Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo recipe, she instructs to rinse and drain the noodles in a strainer, then microwave them for one minute and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
The goal is to get the noodles really, really dry, which leads to crucial texture improvement. Like most tofu products, these noodles on their own are pretty bland, but they take on other flavors well (when dry enough to absorb them). Here’s my easy method, which I started using for stir-fries and has now become my go-to anytime I want to sub shirataki for pasta. I’ve converted shirataki skeptics with calorie-slashed versions of pad thai and this simple pasta with marinara sauce and chicken sausage. Doctoring up the noodles takes about the same amount of time as boiling regular pasta.
Step one: Drain the package of noodles in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. I rinse for a minute or two to make sure I get rid of that off-putting scent completely.
Step two: Press as much liquid as you can from the noodles while still in the colander or strainer. Then pat dry thoroughly on paper towels.
Step three: Preheat a wok (or nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat. Throw the noodles into the dry pan (no oil needed) and cook for several minutes. Even though the noodles are technically already cooked, this is a very effective way to get them super-dry. Once they start to shrivel a bit, they’re good. It’s really pretty tough to overcook these guys.
Step four: For stir-fry, I take the noodles out of the wok and proceed with cooking vegetables and proteins as usual, then add the noodles back in at the end and toss everything together. For Italian-style pasta dishes, like the one pictured above, I add the sauce directly to the wok and cook until everything is heated through. No matter what kind of noodles you’re using, it’s always best to finish cooking pasta in the sauce — everything just melds together so much better. There’s no exception with shirataki.
While the texture will never be a dead-ringer for real fettuccine, this makes one satisfying bowl of noodles.
Have you cooked with Tofu Shirataki? What are your favorite ways to use them?