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Konjac Spaghetti – Shirataki Rice

I was roaming through my local Safeway the other day. I happened to look towards the bottom of one of the pasta aisle shelves and noticed this new (to me) product. It’s called Konjac Spaghetti, by a company called nuPasta. Underneath the  company  name,  you  can  see that the product is referred to as the low calorie pasta.
When I first picked up the box, the thing that confused me was the weight. It’s listed as 210 g. However, when you read the ingredient on the back of the box, water is high on the list. This is a pre-cooked pasta, that only needs to be reheated. I did some checking, and found out that 210 g of this is the same as 85 g of dry pasta. 85 g of dry pasta is what constitutes one serving of pasta, according to most supermarket pastas.

Konjac Spaghetti in container
Konjac Spaghetti. One almost ready to serve portion

Konjac Spaghetti Pricing

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting when I purchased the product. It was listed as being on sale for $3.79. This seemed a little steep, but I figured it wasn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things. However, when I took it home, I grabbed a box of dry pasta that I had in my cupboard and did a bit of a comparison. The box was 454 grams, or essentially 5 servings. That means that the nuPasta Konjac spaghetti would be $18.95 for the equivalent number of servings as one box of pasta.
The next thing was the opening of the package. The spaghetti is stored in water in a black cardboard tray. There is a plastic covering over the tray. I tried seeing if by grabbing one of the corners I could pull the cover off, but all that did was pull off the outer edge of the plastic and I eventually had to stab the plastic with a knife and the pull it off.
This gave me my first surprise. The package tells you there will be a bit of an odour. It doesn’t tell you that the odour is much the same as what came of the fish eyeball I had to dissect in high school biology. It requires a good deal of rinsing to get that flavour to disappear. I made sure when I tried the Shirataki Rice that I rinsed it good and proper.

A Simple Serving

On the back of the package it suggests that once the noodles have been drained and rinsed, the best way to serve them is to: “add sauce, heat and serve.” I decided that I wanted something fairly simple. they are actually microwavable, so I added some salt, pepper, and a little Olive Oil and tossed them into the microwave for 75 seconds.
I’ve posted a video below that has my comments on what I thought of this spaghetti when I tried it.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOWuk00Indg&w=560&h=315]
One of things that I found interesting was making a comparison between Konjac and regular spaghetti. Konjac is praised for its properties of being gluten-free, low starch, and low calorie. It is also said to be quite high in dietary fibre. While these things are true if we take a closer look at these numbers they may not tell the whole story of the two types of pasta.

                                         National Brand Pasta                                         NuPasta Konjac Spaghetti

Calories                           300                                                                        25

Fat                                    1g                                                                          1.5g

Carbs                                63g                                                                          6g

Cholesterol                       0g                                                                          0g

Protein                              11g                                                                        1g \

Sodium                             4mg                                                                       0

Fiber                                  5g                                                                          6g

Sugar                                2g                                                                          0g

The remaining ingredients are given in percentage of daily allowance.

Iron                                   20%                                                                        4%

Thiamin                           20%                                                                        0%

Riboflavin                        25%                                                                        0%

Niacin                               25%                                                                       0%

Folate                                80%                                                                      0%

Calcium                              2%                                                                       12%

Pluses and Minuses

I didn’t include the Shirataki rice in the list above, because the ingredients are almost exactly the same as for the Konjac spaghetti. The only real difference is that there is no soy in the Shirataki rice meaning that it has even less fat than the Konjac spaghetti. The photo below shows only 10 calories, but that is misleading in that they are basing that on 85 grams of prepared pasta being the same size as an 85 grams of uncooked pasta.
As you can see if you read through the chart, there are certain things that the Konjac spaghetti delivers on much better than regular pasta. There is no gluten, no starch, and no sugar. Plus the fiber seems to be somewhat higher. However, it is easy enough to purchase fiber added pasta that is quite a bit cheaper.
However, there are other things such as protein and B-complex vitamins that are better represented in the regular pasta. It seems that you’r trading off one thing for another. This may be a good thing for any one person, but it would make me very cautious of calling this, as seen on the package below, a “miracle noodle.”

We Need Better Labeling

As an aside, I hope one day that serving size and other nutritional information, becomes standardized. This would leave consumers less at the mercy of dubious corporate packaging practices. 

Konjac rice
The Shrataki Konjac Rice really is not that much different than the spaghetti.

After trying out the NuPasta Konjac Spaghetti, I wandered through the internet trying to find out more about Konjac pasta. I found out there were several manufacturers of it, and it is available to order online. Given what followed it seems that this might be the best, and cheapest way to procure the noodles.
Now, the neighbourhood that I live in is on the lower end of the household income scale in Winnipeg. Our local Safeway tends to reflect this. If you were to think of the various supermarkets where you might find a product such as Konjac pasta, the Sargent Avenue Safeway wouldn’t be high on that list. To illustrate, as of the beginning of the month of April, the store has permanently closed one set of doors. This is to funnel customers into the store through a single entrance in an attempt to reduce a serious shoplifting problem.

Trying Another Variety

So, Friday evening I head down to Osborne Village. The Safeway there is much larger, and Osborne Village is much more likely to offer foods that are newer to the North American diet. Well, to my surprise, they not only didn’t have any other varieties, they didn’t even have the NuPasta brand that was on sale at the Sargent location.

Konjac rice being rinsed
The Konjac rice after it had gone through a first rinse.

Fortunately, just down the street from Safeway in Osborne Village is Vita Health. Vita Health is a local institution in the field of natural and health food. I asked at the front counter when I first got to the store, and the clerk, wasn’t sure, but she led me to another employee who took me too the section where I should be able to find the product. He told me that they carried it off and on. As we looked at the shelves, we weren’t able to find any of the spaghetti, but there was some Shirataki Konjac Rice, which my reading had told was pretty much the same thing.

Soy Free

Ingredient wise the biggest difference is that the rice is soy free. I may be wrong but I think the soy must be added to the spaghetti to held give it the white appearance that one would expect of spaghetti.

Konjac rice in beef broth
Shirataki rice added to some leftover roast liquid.

Good Saucing Helps

One way I could tell it was pretty much the same product was that it gave off the same fishy smell when I opened the packaged. This time after it was rinsed I decided, that instead of going for the flavour of the rice, I would mix it in with something. I had cooked a beef roast the previous night, but hadn’t used the juices to make a gravy. So I took the juices, which included a bit of carrot and onion that I had roasted, added a little bit more ginger(I had used ginger as a rub for the roast, and tossed in the Konjac rice.
This led to a very tasty dish. I much preferred the texture of the rice to that of the spaghetti. In general it reminded me of cooked barley. I also found that the rice’s granular quality meant that there was more bite to the Konjac than with the spaghetti.

Not Ready for Regular Rotation

Having tried thee two, I will say that, given the price, I won’t be rushing out to buy either of these two again. Beyond price there is also a lot of packaging for something that contains only one serving. Also the noodles themselves are basically flavourless. I quite enjoy cold, leftover pasta with a bit of salt and pepper. I can’t imagine eating either of these that way.
However, if you are on a calorie restricted and gluten free diet, these may be a good option to add some variety to your diet. Also, they are very quick if you are in a hurry. Although the rinsing does add time to the preparation process.

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By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.