Konjac or konyakku based zero-carb pastas, like shirataki, are becoming a popular noodle alternative for people on low carb diets.
Pastas made with flour or rice are delicate, and don’t hold up to being simmered in soup. So Italians and East Asians will minimize the cooking time, to leave the noodles al dente.
Konjac, in contrast, stands up to long simmering, and behaves more like fatty tissue, skin, or gristle, except that konjac stays firm, while the meat pieces turn soft.
The most popular dish I know with konjac threads, also called “ito konyakku” (literally “thread konyakku”), is sukiyaki.
The Japanese style threads come in white-ish and gray, with most people preferring the gray.
A less well-known dish using konjac is oden, a kind of hot-pot or bouillabaisse.
I think the recipes with konjac developed along with konjac, so you find thin broths with konjack cubes or slices or threads simmered. The broths are meaty, sweet, or both.
These dishes are hot-pots, and simmer for half an hour or more.
In contrast, flour or rice pastas, if they were cooked that long, would become waterlogged, and could disintegrate.
The other common product with konjac in it are vegan “meatballs” that resemble Japanese or Taiwanese fish cake chunks. The konjac substitutes for tendon or other springy meat cuts. This is a food category that doesn’t really exist in the standard American diet, yet.
The closest thing I can think of are boiled and pickled pigs feet. They have a springy texture.
The noodle form are somewhat reminiscent of “bible tripe” or “book tripe” sliced. It’s not a useful analogy for Americans, because we generally don’t eat tripe, unless we’re Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, Southeast Asian, or Black, and eat some heritage foods.
Another category of Asian food that was popular a few decades ago were “jellies”. These were sugar-sweetened konjac jelly formed into jello-like blobs.
I think these were banned in the US as a choking hazard, because Americans aren’t familiar with konjac, and swallowed these, probably expecting them to melt, like gelatin.
Unfortunately, konjac doesn’t melt. It just stays hard.
Swallowing one whole could lead to choking, and death.
To eat it, you have to chew it up like a fibrous fruit.
In Asia, where konjac is eaten regularly, people probably recognized the texture, and behaved accordingly, and weren’t as likely to die.
The tofu shirataki is a blend of tofu and konjac. Tofu is extremely fragile, while konjac is rubbery and durable. Combine the two, and you get a slightly softer konyyaku.
Cook Long, or Cook Short
Most of the recipes suggest a 2-3 minute cooking time, to avoid having them become rubbery.
Well, fuck this “soft shirataki” bullstuff.
The whole point of these yam threads is to attain this rubbery texture. Chewy and rubbery is the point. You should feel like you’re chewing some undercooked connective tissues with gristle on it.
I know that sounds gross, but some of our favorite foods are gristle: consider sausage.
The world broadly divides into two types of sausage eaters. People who want to eat a gristly, chunky sausage, and people who want to eat Oscar Mayer hot dogs and bologna.
If you want only bologna, don’t bother with konjac.
Konjac is good for achieving the former: gristly, fatty, and chunky textures.
Cook it several minutes in a broth, until it firms up and absorbs the flavors in the broth. Fry it in a little oil so it picks up the grease. Mix it with other foods, so there’s textural contrast. Cut it fairly small so people don’t choke on it and die.