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SHIRATAKE RICE & NOODLES

The best no-carb ‘carb’ from young entrepreneur Emilio Ocampo

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 26, 2021 6:00 am

Rice is life, especially to us Asians. However, due to the increasing global health awareness to lower carbohydrates and sugar in one’s diet, alternatives have been mushrooming, like adlai, quinoa, riced cauliflower or broccoli, and chopped cabbage, among others.

Though more nutritious, in my opinion, they do not come close to the real thing in taste and texture. On the other hand, the fitness-conscious who don’t want to totally give up rice consume the whole-grain variety which is brown, red or even black — but it will never be as delicious as good old plain white rice.

I love rice, but the pandemic has made me focus on the importance of my wellbeing, which includes being physically fit, strong and healthy. With an open mind, I discovered a new substitute called Shirataki rice. There is also a noodle variety.

Being attuned to the interest in this healthy option, Emilio Ocampo, founder of Against the Grain, says that “there is a low supply and high demand” for the now popular Shirataki rice and noodles.

It truly looks and has the texture of rice. The only difference I noticed is that it is lighter and doesn’t ‘hit’ your tummy as rice would, so you don’t feel bloated. Well, that is a good thing.

His father and mother have been eating these products for around three years, so he was aware of it. “With this pandemic and all, people are trying to be healthy,” he notes. “But we are a big rice-eating country, so I am providing an alternative that is closest to rice.  This is really what I aspire to do.”

Against the Grain founder Emilio Ocampo with mom Tina and sister Juliana

Emilio started Against the Grain in June of this year, and its primary target audience is women from 30 to 60 years old. As compared to rice, the Shirataki products are more expensive, with a higher price point, but have more health benefits. Emilio reveals that, down the road, the company plans on offering a keto-friendly pan de sal and Shirataki fusilli, penne, and other pasta.

It makes sense that Emilio has a degree in Entrepreneurship and Business Management from Drexel University in Philadelphia and Pace University in New York, where he transferred. Being business-minded at a young age, he put up Born on Mott, a sneaker shop, from 2015 to 2018, when he was just in high school.

He grew up in an atmosphere of entrepreneurship and creativity. His parents, Ricco and Tina Ocampo, are trailblazers when it comes to the fashion and food business. Although surrounded by his parents and sisters’ distinct aesthetic, he describes himself as being “a practical businessman. I am more about numbers and operations rather than the creativity.”

Well, what exactly are Shirataki rice and noodles? They are made from the Konjac root or yam, which is native to Asia. Shirataki contains glucomannan, which is its primary fiber. Glucomannan absorbs water and slows down digestion. It makes you feel full, which lessens your food intake.

For those dieting, this is perfect because you don’t have to starve to lose weight. Studies have also shown that the glucomannan found in Shirataki can lower one’s bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is very low in calories, too. There are even some claims that it contains zero calories. Other benefits include: low in carbs, sugar-free, gluten-free and even keto-friendly. Sounds good but I have to try it for myself.

As a white rice lover, I did my own taste test of the Shirataki rice, which I made into arroz caldo for lunch. It truly looks and has the texture of rice. There is no weird taste or smell to alter the flavor of my favorite rice porridge. The only difference I noticed is that it is lighter and doesn’t “hit” your tummy as rice would, so you don’t feel bloated. Well, that is a good thing.

The verdict? Shirataki is really the closest and best alternative to rice. The noodles, though different from Italian pasta, allow the sauce to be the star of the dish. I am into it and am now convinced to make this a part of my diet and lifestyle.

The next day, I tried the noodles in a Puttanesca sauce. By the way, Shirataki in Japanese means “white waterfall,” referring to the noodles’ appearance. The noodles are translucent, not opaque, and would probably be fantastic for Asian dishes. My Shirataki pasta alla puttanesca was delicious and totally satisfying, very filling.

The verdict? Shirataki is really the closest and best alternative to rice. The noodles, though different from Italian pasta, allow the sauce to be the star of the dish. I am into it and am now convinced to make this a part of my diet and lifestyle.

To launch ATG (Against the Grain), Emilio collaborated with his sister Selina, who is known for her wonderful food offerings at Mise.ph. Selina created curated recipes for the Shirataki rice and noodles. Here they are:

Pesto pasta

 Shirataki Noodles with Pesto and Anchovy Crumble

Ingredients:

1 packet Against the Grain Shirataki Noodles 
35 g potatoes, peeled and cubed
27 g haricot vert green beans, trimmed and cut 1 inch long 
72.76 fresh pesto sauce 
15 g  unsalted butter, cubed
17.2 g sourdough anchovy crumb
Pasta water

Procedure:

  1. Cook the Shirataki noodles, potatoes and green beans in a medium pot boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. At the 8-minute mark, taste the noodles to check the doneness. Drain the pasta, reserving at least 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  2. In the same pot, return the noodles, potatoes, green beans and pesto. Add 1/4 cup pasta water and toss vigorously with tongs (add more pasta cooking liquid if needed) until pasta is glossy and well coated with sauce. (Note: If you’d like to add more “gloss,” add a small knob of unsalted butter at the beginning of this step).
  1. Taste the pasta and season with more salt if needed.
  2. Plate pasta in your chosen service bowl and sprinkle sourdough anchovy crumb on top.

Golden fried rice

 Shirataki Golden Fried Rice

Ingredients:

2 eggs, separate whites and yolks
1 pack ATG Dry rice
2.5g garlic, finely minced
6g   ginger, finely minced
6.5g green onions/scallions, thinly sliced
1g white pepper
1g white sugar 
25g Chinese chorizo, sliced into cubes 
25g peas 

Procedure:

  1. 1. In a 1:1 ratio of water and rice, simmer for 15 minutes in a saucepan or pot with the lid on. Remove from the heat and let rice sit uncovered for 10 minutes. Set rice aside and let it cool. Once it’s cooled down, mix rice well with egg yolks until every grain is evenly coated.
  2. In a pan, add 2 tbsps. of canola oil and sauté ham until lightly golden on medium-low heat. Set aside. In the same pan, increase heat to medium and add Canola oil. Add egg whites and cook until whites have set. This will only take 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In the same pan, add more canola oil if needed, lightly sauté ginger until fragrant. Do not color the ginger. Add the rice mixture into the pan and gently press down, forming a thin and even layer on the surface of the pan. Continue to mix for 1 minute. Season with salt, white pepper and sugar.
  4. In the same pan, set the rice to one side and add garlic and scallion. Sauté and then mix with the rice. Fold in peas, reserved ham and egg  whites and remove from heat. Taste and season to your liking. Serve immediately.

Against the Grain’s Shirataki Rice and Noodles are available at the following retail stores: Vegan Grocer, Real Foods BGC and Alabang, Gourmet Corner San Antonio Arcade and Rockwell, and The Green Company Sunday Morning Food Store in Magallanes. For online purchases, go to @againstthegrain.ph on IG or visit Lazada and Shopee.