"What starch do you want with your meat and vegetables?" the waiter asked us at dinner one night not long ago. "Your choice tonight is a baked potato, rice, or noodles. And, of course, bread."
Those sure weren't my choices. Too many carbs for someone who has diabetes.
That restaurant hasn't heard of low-carb noodles. But we can eat them when we cook at home.
For the past four years I've been writing on my website and here about Dreamfields Pasta. These noodles have the same taste and texture as old-fashioned pasta, but the company's process makes almost all of the carbs in Dreamfields non-digestible. Consequently, many people -- not all -- find that these noodles have essentially no effect on their blood glucose level.
If you can't eat a plate of Dreamfields without sending your blood glucose level too high, you still have a choice. It's a Japanese noodle that I used to eat when I lived in California and even wrote about then in "My Favorite Low Carb and Low GI Foods."
I had almost forgotten about shirataki noodles. Then, Rose Marie McGee commented on one of my articles about Dreamfields Pasta that, "Today I'm off to find shirataki noodles [that are] almost carb-free."
But I rather brushed off her comment by replying that, "Yes, shirataki noodles are very low carb, if any. But they can't compare with Dreamfields Pasta in taste."
It wasn't a fair comparison.
It's true that shirataki noodles don't have much taste. Much like tofu, they absorb the taste of what we prepare them with. I prefer to simply drizzle them with a little extra-virgin olive oil in which I have sizzled a couple cloves of garlic. At the table I add crushed red pepper and salt. Veggies steamed or stir-fried in olive oil work well with this basic recipe too.
You can have these shirataki noodles from your refrigerator to your table much quicker than any other noodles. One satisfying recipe calls for rinsing them and then microwaving them for a minute, drying them carefully, and then adding strained yogurt and microwaving them for another minute.
Shirataki noodles are largely a highly soluble fiber called glucomannan that comes from the root of the konjac plant. They call it a yam, but it's totally different from American or African plants of that name.
Whole Foods and some other natural food stores carry shirataki noodles mixed with a little tofu in their refrigerator cases. Most people think that the tofu improves the taste and texture, but does give them a couple of grams of available carbohydrates per serving.
You will probably need to find a local Asian market or order online to get the shirataki noodles without the tofu. One firm that sells them only online is Konjac Foods in Sunnyvale, California.
My taste buds don't detect a big difference between the shirataki noodles made from just glucomannan (yam flour) and those with added tofu. For me the big difference is the shape they cut the noodles into.
The shirataki noodles that I've found in Asian markets have always been cut like spaghetti, but I prefer linguine or fettucini size noodles. Those that I've found at Whole Foods and Konjac Foods come in all the typical pasta shapes from angel hair to lasagna.
When you start eating low-carb, you may find as I have that soon you don't miss stuff like bread, rice, or potatoes. But my body seems to think that it still needs noodles. Fortunately, it's still a choice.