Zero Calorie Cuisine - With recipes
What if you could eat as much of a food as you like and not gain weight? Impossible! I can hear you say.
Actually it isn’t quite as fanciful as it sounds. Described as zero calorie; in fact 100g of this super-food is a negligible 7 calories. It is gluten free, fat free, cholesterol and sugar free. It is suitable for diabetics, people with coeliac disease and people wanting to lose weight.
What on earth can it be?
It is a foodstuff produced from a plant called Konjac (pronounced Kone-yak). The plant’s common name is Devil’s Tongue and it grows in Eastern Asia. The food is made from the tuberous root of the plant and is known in English speaking countries as Yam Cake or Konnyaku; although the plant itself has no connection to the Yam family. It is 98% water and 2% fibre. This fibre is made up of a substance known as Glucomannan which is a polysaccharide, soluble in water. Glucomannan is often used as a thickener or emulsifier. There are traces of starch, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and magnesium. The fibre can absorb up to 200 times its weight in moisture and turns into a thick gel when mixed with water, which is why it is often used as an appetite suppressant as once expanded it gives a feeling of fullness.
Two types of Yam Cake are available commercially; white and black. The pure white version can be used for making plain pasta, ravioli, shiratake noodles and lasagne. It can also be deep or shallow fried to use as croutons for soup or salad.
The black version, pictured below, isn’t actually black but a greyish colour with black specks. The colour and speckled appearance is achieved by the addition of seaweed. The cake can be cubed and used for adding to casseroles and stews or sliced and grilled to serve with a sauce. It needs to be boiled for 2-3 minutes first as it contains lime (calcium hydroxide). Boiling first also helps the konnyaku to absorb flavours as it is virtually tasteless.
The fibre from Konjac can also be made into flour which is used as a thickener in sauces and in bread dough as a stabiliser. The flour has a much higher thickening capacity than cornflour - approximately 10 times higher.
Where can I buy it?
Amazon.com Grocery and Gourmet Food, Japanese speciality food stores and Asian grocery stores in USA .
In the UK, online retailer japanesekitchen.co.uk stocks it. Also Slimrice.co.uk, Holland & Barrett, Tesco, Amazon and the Nutricentre carry a range of pre cooked products made of Konjac under the brand name Eat Water, Slim Rice, Slim Noodles and Slim Pasta.
Some of My Recipes using Konjac products
I have tried these products myself and I must say I like them. They are essentially tasteless but when eaten with a sauce or some other flavouring they absorb the flavours readily and are quite tasty. The recipes are low in calories and will help you lose weight as part of a calorie controlled diet.
Chicken, Egg Fried Rice
- 150g Chicken, Cut into strips
- 1/2 small Onion, Chopped
- 1 tsp Sesame or Olive Oil
- 2 Tsp Frozen Petit Pois
- Mushrooms (Optional), Sliced
- 1 Egg, Beaten
- 1 Pack Slim/Konjac Rice, Rinsed and drained
- Pinch Salt
- Pinch Ground Ginger
- 2 Tsp Soy Sauce
- Fry chicken in oil till cooked, add onion, mushrooms and peas and stir fry. Add beaten egg and stir with fork until cooked. Add pinch of ginger, salt and 2 tsp soy sauce followed by the ‘rice’. Fry for a further 3 – 4 minutes and serve. The texture of the rice is slightly rubbery but the flavour is just like fried rice. The rice can also be served with Chilli con Carne or Curry – again I would mix in rather than using it as a base for the sauce so that it takes on the flavours.
- 150g Lean Minced Steak
- 1 tsp Mild Olive Oil
- ½ Small onion chopped
- 1 clove Garlic chopped or crushed
- I Tin Chopped tomatoes
- 2oz sliced Mushrooms
- Salt Pepper
- Oregano or Italian Seasoning to taste
- 1 Pack Slim/Konjac Noodles Rinsed and drained
Fry mince, onion, mushrooms and garlic in oil for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, seasoning and herbs and fry for a further 20 minutes. I find it is best to mix the noodles into the Bolognese sauce and let them take on the flavour, rather than top them with the sauce. Serve sprinkles with a little grated parmesan cheese.
Chicken Stir Fry
- 150g Chicken Breast cut into strips
- 1 pack Stir Fry vegetables
- 1 tsp Mild Olive Oil
- I tbsp Chinese 5 spice Powder
- 2 tsp Cornflour
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Pack Slim/Konjac Noodles _ Rinsed and drained
Coat seasoned chicken in Cornflour & 5 spice powder. Fry in Oil. Add vegetables and drained and rinsed noodles, Fry for 3 minutes then add soy sauce and lemon juice. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and serve. Tip you can add extra onions, peppers and mushrooms if you wish. Serves up to 2
NB Beef or Pork or even prawns can be used instead of chicken
Claimed Health Benefits
- May prevent diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels
- Can help with constipation
- Prevents against Bowel Cancer and Haemorrhoids
- Can prevent obesity by giving a feeling of fullness
- Regulates cholesterol levels
- Can lower blood pressure
- Aids weight loss
- Reputed to manage Acne when applied to the skin*
*As regards Acne management there is a product called a Konjac Sponge. Please don't confuse this with the Yam 'Cake'. It isn't a sponge cake as in edible sponge. It is definitely not edible. The sponges are sold in dry form and are quite hard. They have to be soaked in water to hydrate them and then facial skin can be gently massaged with the damp sponge. The sponges are 100% biodegradeable.
There have been reports of choking when Konjac has been made into sweets and candies. This is because the gel does not dissolve easily. On some of the packaging of the product it warns to cut the cake into smaller pieces if serving to children or the elderly. The FDA in the US has banned the jelly confectionery products due to choking hazard. As a general rule, the noodles and ‘rice’ are deemed safe, due to their small size.
Yam cake is very filling and is reported to have appetite suppressing properties. As it has very little in the way of nutrition it is important not to eat too much of it as cases of malnutrition have been reported in people eating excessive amounts.
It is advisable to take any medicines at a separate time of the day as the glucomannan can block absorption of the medication in some cases.
Other ‘Zero’ Calorie Foods
The following foods contain calories but the energy expended eating and digesting them all but cancels out the calorie content in most cases. They are nutritious and deserve to be included in a healthy diet.
- Courgette (Zucchini)
- Grapefruit and other Citrus Fruit
- Red Pepper (Bell Pepper)
© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved