We love nothing more than a truffled tagliatelle or greasy, fried rice, but sometimes we want those comforting glutinous, carb-y strands without the gluten –and the carbs. Luckily for us, we now live in an age besotted by health crazes – from pescetarian to paleo – everyone has a healthy agenda of some sort, at one time or another. Here, we pop on our culinary hats and bring you the five yummiest, and most importantly, guilt-free alternatives to pasta and rice. So you’re warm, fuzzy and nourished on the inside, without that carb-loaded muffin top on the outer. Bon appetit!
Teff is the new superfood du jour, in part because of its endless manifestations – you can use it for just about anything. The teeniest tiniest grain on the planet, this ancient little seedling, hailing from Ethiopia, is crammed with crazy goodness. Packed with protein and amino acids, high in fibre, iron and calcium, low GI and a good source of resistant starch – a starch which is actually beneficial to our bods, it’s also gluten and nut free (talk about an over-achiever). From bread to brownies to biscuits, or even boiled as a rice alternative, the teff train is well and truly chuffing full steam ahead. The teff tick of the bunch? Teff Gnocchi, which I was lucky enough to try, and they are just as pillowy and delectable as the real deal – sans the unsavoury stodge.
The mind is a powerful thing, and when you wield it to believe something, it does. Enter cauliflower rice; it looks like rice, it smells like rice (well, kind of), it even tastes like rice! The shape, colour and consistency are there, so upon a mouthful of the little granules, it really does feel like you’re eating rice. The best part? It’s super easy and accessible for those lacking fancy pants kitchen utensils. Simply take a grater to a floret and grate away to a coarse texture (if you do have a fancy pants food processer that also works too). Try a tasty Fried Rice variation (without the toxic vegetables oils and stodgy grain), pack and press into your homemade sushi handrolls or simply serve as a side dish with classic dinner fodder.
Zuchinni Noodles are the most common (and Insta snappy) of all the alternatives on offer. A vegetable spiralizer works best with this, as you can actually mimic the thickness of the noodles. Either heated in boiling water or served cold, they are chameleonic in their purpose, and can be used in anything from a spag bowl to Pad Thai, such is their versatility. Remember zucchini retain a lot of water, so to avoid a sloppy spaghetti mess – eek! – salt them, let them sit for as long as possible, then via the magic of osmosis, their liquid will ooze out for you to wipe away. A creamy, nutty pesto always compliments this green squiggles perfectly.
For those whose love of carbs threatens abs of steel (i.e.; me), then look no further than these slippery strands of guilt-free goodness. A latest obsession, these curb those pasta pangs and really do hit the spaghetti spot. The Japanese-style noodles, which also come in the form of fettuccine, spaghetti, lasagne sheets and more, are made out of Konjac yams, an ancient root vegetable grown in Japan, China & South Korea. The corm or root of the Konjac is used to make flour, pasta or noodles. A word of warning however, they emit a particular pong when you remove them from the packet, so drain well, then let them sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes. They too retain water in bounds; so a good trick is to empty into a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess moisture. It may also take some time to acquaint yourself kindly to their texture; rubbery and elastic. However, with barely any calories or carbohydrates, it’s no wonder the Japanese refer to Konjac as the “magic food”. And have you seen how slender they are? Sign us up.
KONJAC (SHIRATAKI) NOODLES
This often overlooked root vegetable (damn those sexy sweet potatoes), is actually quite low carb for a root vegetable, thanks to its generous fibre content. It’s time these undervalued little guys got some kitchen lovin’, and what better way than to transform them into crunchy chips. They’re even yellow, so aesthetically you won’t even know the difference. You can chip these two ways; either thin, gauzy and spherical, like crisps, or in chunky planks like hot chips. Depends what chip-mood you’re in. Either way, season with punchy herbs or dip into salubrious sauces and chip cravings will be well and truly satiated.
Story by Chrisanthi Kaliviotis.