I recently discovered a very low carb low calorie noodle made from the sea vegetable kelp, manufactured by a company called Sea Tangle. It comes in a green plastic bag and was located in the Asian section of Whole Foods. (it can be purchased more cheaply on-line) The bag proclaims this product to be both healthful and delicious. The first assertion is dubious, but the second is really true. These noodles, which look like glass vermicelli, taste just like rice noodles, that is if you cook them long enough. I made them once cooking them until they were soft and once just heating them through, and the experience was very different. When they were cooked longer until soft, they tasted like normal noodles. When cooked only briefly, they tasted like a crunchy vegetable and not noodle like at all.
My fifteen year old daughter has a discriminating palate and finds many of the unusual foods I eat disgusting. When she sat down at the computer from which I had neglected to log out and saw what I had been researching, she put two and two together and realized that the yummy left over Pad Thai she had just consumed was made from long cooked kelp noodles. She had not noticed anything unusual about the Pad Thai. And believe me, she would have.
These noodles have a lot of potential. Noodles made from rice or wheat are loaded with carbohydrate and calories, which can be problematic for those of us with insulin resistance and a tendency to gain weight. These noodles are almost carb free and calorie free, and it’s remarkable how good they taste. They are completely different than Japanese Shiritaki noodles, which are also translucent, low calorie and low carb. Shiritaki noodles are made from konjac yam and water, taste a little bit fishy and have an odd springy texture. Kelp noodles taste much more like conventional rice or wheat noodles.
Here is what it says on the package:
Kelp Noodles are a sea vegetable in the form of an easy to eat noodle. Made only of kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from the brown seaweed) and water, Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten free and very low in carbohydrates and calories. Their noodle form and neutral taste allow for a variety of uses including salads, stir-fries, hot broths and casseroles while their healthful content provides a rich source of trace minerals including iodine, which kelp is well known for. Their unique texture completes the package, making Kelp noodles a one-of-a kind healthful and tasty alternative to pasta and rice noodles. Best of all, no cooking is required, Just rinse and add the noodles to any dish and they are ready to eat!
Kelp noodles are not a GAPS or Paleo food. They qualify as a processed food. Here is a description of alginates:
“Alginates are extracted from brown seaweed and are available in sodium, ammonium and potassium derivatives. They are soluble in both hot and cold water, and can thicken and bind. In the presence of calcium and an acid some alginates can form resilient gels.
The chemical compound sodium alginate is the sodium salt of alginic acid. Its form as a gum, when extracted from the cell walls of brown seaweed (particularly kelp grown in the cold water regions of Ireland, Scotland, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa) is used by the food industry to increase viscosity and as an emulsifier. It is also used in indigestion tablets. Sodium alginate has no discernable flavor.
Sodium alginate works as a cold gelling agent that needs no heat to gel. It gels in the presence of calcium compounds. Most commonly used with calcium chloride to make caviar and spheres. It dilutes while cold with strong agitation. Heat is not needed to produce spherification. Sodium alginate can also be used to produce foams.”
There was a Michelin 3 Star restaurant (three star rating means: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey” (“Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage”) on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, Spain called elBulli. It was only open 6 months a year and considered for several years to be the best restaurant in the world. The chef of elBulli, Ferran Adria prepared extremely creative and exotic dishes using alginates to create caviar like spheres and colored foams. It was described as “the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet.” It closed in July of 2011 and is scheduled to reopen in 2014.
Even though Kelp noodles are a processed food, for those who must adhere to a low carb diet, I believe that it is safe to eat them occasionally. They provide needed variety which makes it easier to stick to a low carb regimen. Digestively they agreed with me, and I felt very satisfied after I ate them. Sodium alginate is touted to have appetite suppressant effects.
Here is a recipe from the the Sea Tangle Website for Thai Chicken and Kelp Noodle Salad with Spicy Dressing
|THAI CHICKEN AND KELP NOODLE SALAD WITH SPICY DRESSING
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sambal or garlic chili sauce
Poached Chicken Breasts, recipe followsSalad:
10 1/2 ounces Kelp Noodles
4 cups boiling hot water
1/2 cup Basic Sauce, recipe follows
1/2 jicama, julienne
1 carrot, julienne
1/2 green papaya*, julienne
1 mango, cubed
1 English cucumber, seeded and cubed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh Thai basil leaves, chiffonade
1/2 cup Spicy Dressing, recipe follows
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
1/4 cup peanuts
(*Can be found at specialty Asian markets.)To make marinade:
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and sambal in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the chicken meat from the bone and cut or tear into bite size pieces. Toss the chicken meat with the marinade and refrigerate until needed.To make the salad:
Rinse and drain Kelp Noodles and toss with the Basic Sauce. Using a pair of scissors, snip the noodles into shorter lengths. Remove the chicken from the marinade and toss with the glass noodles. Toss the jicama, carrot, green papaya, mango, cucumber, cilantro, and basil with some of the Spicy Dressing. Mix the dressed vegetables with the noodles. Mound onto a plate and sprinkle with bean sprouts, mint, and peanuts. Drizzle with some more of the spicy dressing.Poached Chicken Breasts:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless (about 18 ounces)
In a large pot combine the onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt, and water. (Use just enough water to be able to completely cover the chicken once they have been added to the pot). Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken breasts and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken from water and cool completely.Basic Sauce:
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sambal or garlic chili sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine the sugar and water in a medium-sized pot and boil for 5 minutes to make a simple syrup. In a blender puree the sambal, garlic, red pepper, fish sauce, salt, and lemon juice. Add the puree to the pot with the simple syrup. Simmer for 25 minutes until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of corn syrup. Store Basic Sauce in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Yield: 2 cupsSpicy Dressing:
1/2 cup Basic Sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oilIn a blender combine the basic sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, oyster sauce, chili flakes, and garlic. While the blender is running add the vegetable oil in a slow steady stream. Once all the oil has been added continue to blend for 1 minute, until the dressing has emulsified. Store in a tightly sealed container, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Yield: 1 cup