Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers (Konnyaku aglio olie e peperoncino)

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Konnyaku is a wonderful food for anyone on any kind of diet - provided, of course, that you like it. I do like it - it has a very unique chewy-bouncy texture. I have described konnyaku and its noodle-shaped cousin, sharataki, before, but briefly, konnyaku is a grey to white colored, gelatinous mass which basically consists of water and fiber. It has almost no calories. Right out of the package, konnyaku and shirataki have an odd smell, but if you treat it properly (directions given below) you can get rid of that and just have the flavorless yet curiously interesting mass of goo that is going to fill up your belly in a very useful way.

This is something very easy to make in a jiffy. It's basically taking a classic Italian spaghetti recipe and applying it to konnyaku. (Before you complian to me, my Italian readers, yes this is a complete bastardization of a classic. I mean, konnyaku instead of spaghetti? Really.) You could make this with shirataki too, in which case it will actually look like noodles, but I rather prefer the chewier texture of konnyaku. The only thing to watch for if you are on a diet is the amount of olive oil and optional cheese you use.

Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers (Konnyaku aglio olie e peperoncino)

Serves 1 to 2. If using 1 tablespoon of oil, the whole amount comes out to about 140 calories (plus cheese).

  • 1 large block (250g / about 1/2 lb) grey or white konnyaku
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 to 2 hot red chili peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare the konnyaku: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drain and rinse the block of konnyaku - it will smell odd! Slice the block into half horizontally, then slice thinly into strips. Put the strips of konnyaku into the boiling water. Bring up to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. (You may want to rinse off your cutting board in the meantime.) Drain the konnyaku into a colander, and let rest until the slices are cool and dried out. (This prep method is slightly different to the one I detailed in my old konnyaku article. I find it's the best way to prep konnyaku for stir frying.)

In a large sauté pan, heat up the oil and add the garlic and chili peppers over medium heat. Sauté until the garlic is just turning color. Remove the garlic and chili from the pan and reserve. Add the konnyaku to the pan - it may spit at you a bit so be careful. Turn the heat up to high, and sauté until the surface of the konnyaku slices are blistered and turning a bit brown. Add back the garlic and chili peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve just as-is or with some grated cheese on top. Best eaten when hot, though it's not bad when cool either. Leftovers from the fridge are interesting. (For bentos, I might either use less garlic, scrape off the garlic, or use ginger instead - the garlic gets very pungent after a while for some reason.)

Asian-tasting variation

Add a few drops of sesame oil while sautéing, and some soy sauce in addition to or instead of the salt. Garnish with fresh chopped green onion.

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