Shirataki are thin, translucent, gelatinous traditional Japanese noodles made from the konjac yam (devil’s tongue yam or elephant yam). The word “shirataki” means “white waterfall”, describing the appearance of these noodles. Largely composed of water and glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber, they are very low in digestible carbohydrates and calories, and have little flavor of their own. Shirataki noodles can be found in both dry and soft “wet” forms in Asian markets and some supermarkets. When bought wet, they are packaged in liquid. They normally have a shelf life of up to one year. Some brands may require rinsing or parboiling, as the waters are packaged as unpleasant. Alternatively, the noodles can be drained and dry-roasted, which diminishes bitterness and gives the noodles a more pasta-like consistency. Dry-roasted noodles can be added to the stock or added to the sauce.
The glucomannan noodles come from the root of an Asian plant called konjac (full name Amorphophallus konjac). It has been nicknamed the elephant yam, and also called konjaku, konnyaku, or the konnyaku potato.
Shirataki also goes by the names “ito konnyaku”, yam noodles, and devil’s tongue noodles.
There used to be a difference in manufacturing methods; in the Kansai region of Japan, ito konnyaku konnyaku konnyaku konnyaku konnyaku Nowadays, both are prepared using the latter method. Ito konnyaku is generally thicker than shirataki, with a square cross section and a darker color. It is preferred in the Kansai region.