Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

In Which The Author Engages In A Totally Frivolous Fake Low-Carb Noodle Taste Test

Sorry, I know my last post was about the Orlando shooting. And I've been mulling a long, scientifically supported explanation of my support of Black Lives Matter. But....alas.

 A few weeks ago I was shopping at a place whose classist reputation is odious, but whose selection holds certain surprisingly unique and even reasonably priced finds, including a most excellent beer selection that reliably has Victory Golden Monkey. I digress.

I was wandering the vegan section (not because I am, but my mom is, and they have some fake bleu cheese dressing I wanted to find for her).

Anyway, I found a whole selection of low carb and fake noodles. Now, as a person whose metabolism runs at -8 I have either tried or been urged to try like every diet known to humanity. I now refuse to bow to any of them because I had a very clear vision during one of my yearly reflections that if I died having spent that much time devoted to thinking about my body and food rather than say, friendships, family, literature, the ocean, the poor, adventure, etc, I would regret it. So I stopped. That said, I remember a time when I was doing a low carb diet and I was trying to find a good fake noodle substitute...because noodles are the best. And I actually have a serious love for spaghetti squash and prefer it to real noodles. Anyway, the fake noodles were cheaper than I thought they would be, so I thought I would try them: no harm, no foul.  A few days later I went to the local Korean supermarket and ran into some more fake noodles (classic shirataki and sea tangle) and I felt fated to create a Battle Royale in which all the noodles would compete for substitutional dominance!

Prep: I had actually gone a little crazy when I saw how cheap the fake noodles were and I came home with 5 bags. Turns out that 3 of them were slight variations on kelp noodles because, to the untrained eye, they seem the most likely to hold up as an al dente noodle. So, I decided to keep it classic and unflavored, leaving the koji berry kelp noodles and the green tea kelp noodles for another day. These were the noodles that made it into the ring:

1) House Foods Tofu Shirataki--10 calories per serving, 3g carbs and 2g fiber

2) JFC Shirataki--purple and black bag--classic shirataki made from mostly yam flour--5 calories, 2 carbs, no fiber per serving

3) Wang Korea's classic sea tangle noodles--5 calories 1 carb and 1 g fiber per serving.

I decided that the only fair way for me to see if I would ever buy these noodles again was to subject them to 3 of my most common noodle preparations: cold Asian, cold Mediterranean, and warm Italian. Two cold preparations because....I eat a lot of leftovers. These are preparations I throw together in good times and bad, which go well with various beverages, and whose flavors and textures are burned in my mind.

I took a portion out of each bag to rinse them off--p.s. the classic shirataki and the tofu were really offputting because they both come in water packs, which is a weird start for a "noodle" AND because they both have a weird fishy smell despite being vegan--apparently it's something in the yam flour...oh wait, or the added seaweed powder. ANYWAY, despite the smell, they don't taste fishy--I tried them cold and unrinsed. In a strange twist, the seaweed kelp noodles did not smell fishy at all and also had no flavor whatsoever when I tried them cold. whatever.  I rinsed each type of noodle twice in cold water because the internets had told me it was an easy way to get rid of fish smell. The internets were correct. (the internets also said to add some lemon, but the Julie is le tired and didn't think of it.)

I then separated them into three containers each--one for the hot preparation and two for the cold preparations.

The sauces:
1) the Mediterranean cold noodle involves some Trader Joe's quinoa pesto , bruschetta sauce, and feta.
2) The Asian cold noodle involves Kimchi, a dash of soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, and a dash of rice wine vinegar.
3) The hot Italian--Mussels boiled in garlic and white wine (the Julie is anemic and mussels have like 65% daily iron per serving) with Trader Joe's vodka sauce, a dash of olive oil, and some parmesan.

For the cold dishes I just rinsed the noodles. For the hot dish I actually warmed the noodles up in the broth of the mussels because the noodles are all already cooked and just need warming.

The competition:

Round one: Cold Mediterranean. Winner: House Foods Tofu Shirataki
It annoys me when the most expensive version wins, but this was a clear winner for the cold Mediterranean preparation. Absolutely tasted the most like a regular noodle. Totally took on the flavor of the sauce. So yummy.

I had read that sea tangle kelp noodles were crunchy, but dear God in heaven there is no way for you to know from the package that they are crunchy like the rawest of bean sprouts or what I imagine eating a Styrofoam cup would feel like. Al dente can't even be used to describe it. Pretty unappealing in the Mediterranean dish.

The classic shirataki were fine, they would do, but they were a little more jellyfish textured than I'd like.

Round Two: Cold Asian. Winner: Classic JFC yam shirataki, but almost tie between JFC Shirataki and House Foods Tofu Shirataki

While again the sea tangle noodles were the unfortunate loser, I have to say, I still enjoyed them more with the cold Asian sesame kimchi flavors. There was something about their outrageous crunch that better suited the flavors. I wouldn't kick it out of bed.

Again the tofu noodles felt like a substitute I wouldn't even question as a real noodle (maybe not the BEST noodle I'd ever had, but a totally acceptable sub). But the sort of mid-texture crunch of the classic shirataki felt like home in its Asian accoutrements.

Round Three: Warm Italian. Winner: House Foods Tofu Shirataki, but just barely.

All the noodles tasted great in this preparation. The tofu shirataki just tasted like sauce, which is why it wins. But Most Improved definitely goes to the sea tangle kelp noodles. I had read online that when you boil the sea tangle noodles they soften into a better texture, and even though I only boiled them in broth for about 5 minutes I could absolutely tell the difference--much much better. And since, from the package they seemed the most likely to taste like real noodles and thus I bought 3 different kinds, there will be a lot of sea tangle kelp noodle boiling in Casa Juliana in the near future.

So, in conclusion, if money is no object, I'd say go for the House Foods tofu shiratakis. But if money is an object, regular  speckled shirataki is good and sea tangle kelp is good if boiled--like maybe just leave it on the over for 45 minutes and then cool it off. But the tofu shirataki noodles are definitely the lazy woman's winner if you want a noodle sub.

Thanks so much for reading. I literally did this for no reason except my own delight and so that I could procrastinate from cleaning my house.

Also, each noodle preparation benefited from the cook's drinking of the other half of the bottle of white wine used to cook the mussels while taste testing.


P.s. in the pictures the sea tangle are on the left, the classic shirataki are in the middle,  and the tofu shirataki are on the right.


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