Monday, November 14, 2011

Tetley's soy milk tea and Konjac root noodles

Consider this.

It is Saturday morning (nearly Saturday afternoon) and we are at Woolworths.

This is, in itself, rather exciting. I am easily excited by supermarkets, and as we live over the road (nearly) from a Coles, Woolworths has a certain something that comes from not being in the store every second day.

This particular visit had already been heightened by the discovery of Lindt Excellence chocolate on sale for two blocks for $4.

I may have been semi-dancing down the aisles, and/or riding on the trolley as I pushed it.

(It is best to perform the trolley riding trick when there are heavy items in the far end of the trolley. And to take a casual approach, rather than careening down the aisles. Just in case you were wondering.)

Mr Bite then pointed out this tea as a possible point of interest:

It was, indeed, a possible point of interest. I took a packet. I may have made a comment about there being an awful lot of tea in the packet if I didn’t end up liking it. We may want to keep that comment in mind.

We continued our journey in the upbeat way that characterises our (my) supermarket trips, and then I saw these noodles:

My brain then veered off into temper tantrum territory, with my thoughts going something along the lines of “For goodness sakes, can we not just have noodles - why does everything need to have a low calorie version?! / There is nothing WRONG with noodles in their current form / I really wish people weren’t scared of carbohydrates…”.

And then I actually picked the packet up, to see what on earth they had done to the noodles to make them ‘super lo-cal’, and saw that they were not noodles in the traditional sense at all.

These noodles are made from Konjac root extract, and that suddenly changed my stance on the product altogether.

Given that they were now not a modified, fake version of noodles but a vegetable-derived noodle alternative, my brain backtracked and went down the “How interesting! I want to try them!” path.

Clearly I can be a little fickle in the supermarket.

This means that we returned home with two new products for me to try.

Here are my conclusions.

Tetley’s tea for soy milk

I am still not entirely certain what they did to make these tea bags different to the non-soy milk variety. The labelling suggests that the tea in question is slightly different, but why soy milk pairs better with "zingy high grown Kenyan" tea than with other black tea is a mystery to me.

I can attest, though, that these do work very well with soy milk. There is no curdling in sight and the appearance of the tea is identical to when I make it with cow’s milk. Quite an impressive effort!

There is a downside, though, and that is that I don’t much like the flavour. Yes, that comment in the supermarket is now haunting me.

You see, I am a little fussy with black tea and would generally prefer to drink Earl Grey or English Breakfast black than a generic brand that I’m not fond of with milk. I fear that this soy variety, for all its soy-related benefits, may be going into the ‘brand I’m not fond of’ category. I will try it a few more times first, but I suspect it may linger in the pantry for a while.

My verdict? If you aren’t too worried about your brand of black tea, you think milk in tea is essential, and you like to drink soy milk, then these may be perfect. As for me, I’m now pinning my hopes on an instant coffee that works with soy milk…

Chang’s Super Lo-Cal Noodles

As noted, these are not your traditional wheat, rice or egg noodles. They are made from Konjac root extract, which the internet helpfully told me may also be known as Glucomannan. There seems to be a whole diet industry built around this product, which makes me think that these noodles are just the tip of the iceburg. 

The fact that 100g (half a packet) of these provides just 44kj / 11 calories, with no fat or carbohydrate, highlights how much scope there is for diet-related advertising. One website noted that Konjac can expand by up to 17x when eaten, which I found rather terrifying, but I suppose might appeal to those trying to fill themselves up on what is effectively fibre without calories.

With regard to what it actually is, Wikipedia informed me that Konjac is a perennial plant that has large starchy stems, and that it is these that are used create Konjac flour and Konjac jelly. Konjac-derived noodles are apparently common in Japan and are called shirataki there. Konjac can also provide a vegan alternative to gelatine.

When progressing to read about Glucomannan itself, the name for the Konjac extract, I found myself getting a little concerned about what I had bought. Why? Well, there have been warnings issued about the importance of taking the extract with water or fluid, and that there are “risks of choking and/or blockage of the throat, oesophagus or intestine” if this doesn’t occur.

Fortunately the noodles consist of water and Konjac root extract but I still think, on balance, that I might prefer real noodles that can’t kill me.

I did try these though, with left-over vegetable stir fry that I had originally served with rice. I cooked the noodles in simmering water for 5 to 10 minutes, and noted that whilst they looked identical to other noodles they had a slightly different smell. Sort of…earthier? Not exactly unpleasant, but perhaps not entirely appealing either.

When considering taste, they really don’t have one. This isn’t particularly unusual for Asian-style noodles, and the main difference from the regular variety (they reminded me most of thick rice noodles) is in the texture. 

They are chewy yet firm, and biting through them to break the noodles up is pretty impossible. They also seemed a bit stodgy after a while, despite their low calorie nature (perhaps because they were expanding to 17x their size in my stomach and/or threatening to choke me from within? :/ ).

For people who were trying to lose weight, limit carbohydrates or avoid gluten, I can see that these may be quite beneficial. For myself, the fear of somehow dying a death from Konjac root might just put me off!

Have you heard of or tried Konjac-related products? What about tea for soy milk?


  1. Reading your post made me want to take a trolley for a spin! Have heard of shirataki noodles recently but didn't look them up to see what they were made of. I'm not sure I want to try them now as I really love the soft texture of fresh rice noodles. I can't help you with the tea as I don't drink it!

  2. What? No! It's far more important to be gaunt than alive! Sheesh, Kari! :P (I wonder if those noodles are anything like these? [warning: very old post]

    And that tea just annoys me. How is it not just marketing?! Gosh, I seem cranky tonight ;)

  3. The noodles sound stressful.... best to stick with spaghetti squash for anyone who wants low cal!

  4. I am intrigued by those noodles! must go in search!

  5. I used to have to have milk in tea, but I've been branching out and trying more teas. Now I pretty much only have milk in English Breakfast and otherwise drink my tea black. If I was restricted to soy milk I think I would go all black, for me it just doesn't taste right.

    Those noodles sound super weird. I don't think I would be game to try them - and I've eaten piranha.

  6. Kari, those noodles scare the crap outta me. I have tried glucomannan tablets a few years ago but really I'm totally put off by the texture and glumpiness factor. And I don't relish the idea of being strangled from the inside!

  7. I do have a lot of fun with supermarket trolleys :)

    If you like fresh rice noodles, I suspect these may not appeal to you. They are very different! I also prefer the softer variety and suspect I'll be sticking to them in future.

  8. Ah Hannah, you are always guarranteed to make me laugh :) And I think these noodles are the same as the ones in your post! Interesting to see that you noted the smell too - although you seemed to survive eating them? (Well, obviously you survived eating them, but you didn't mention any uncomfortable choking / exploding stomach experiences!)

    With the tea, I feel a bit like someone who has just started to believe in magic ("But I *saw* it happen!"). It really did work well with soy milk?!

  9. Yes, definitely too stressful to justify I think! Although sadly, I have never been able to find spaghetti squash! I think it is much less common in Australia than the US. I'm sure it is available in some places, but my searches over the years have always been futile. One day...

  10. Try Woolworths :) And I'd love to hear how you find them!

  11. Piranha?? Wow. When and where?! I think I'd take these noodles over that, although I agree that they are super weird :)

    I am moving towards drinking more black tea, well, black. Maybe one day I'll make the switch completely!

  12. No, me neither Liz! It's a very disconcerting thought.

  13. Well I don't drink tea with milk so have never had to worry about soy milk in tea - but the idea of making a tea that suits it is curious - is it possible to add some flavour to your tea (I have wondered if it is possible to get bergamot oil (not sure I have spelt it properly) like in earl grey)

    re the noodles - sounds a wee bit scary but might be good for GF diets where people I know eating them have said it is harder to feel full - though no one want a stomach so full it explodes

  14. i have never heard of either of these but konjac sounds interesting.. i wonder if i can get it here?

  15. I haven't heard of those noodles or the tea. It would be interesting to do a black tea and soy test to see how all the different brands react with the soy milk, to see whether there is something to it, or it's just a gimmick, (skeptical little thing aren't I :-) Have you tried Daintree Tea?

  16. I love the idea of adding flavourings to this tea, especially as I'm stuck with the box. Thanks! Bergamot oil (not sure if I've spelt it properly either...) would be lovely given that I like the Earl Grey flavour.

    Definitely worth avoiding the exploding stomach scenario! But yes, I imagine there would be sub-groups for who these noodles would be very handy.

  17. I'd imagine so? Maybe in an Asian shop if not your regular supermarket. It's hard to keep up with all the different names used across Australia and the US though, so it could go by something else where you are!

    Thanks for stopping by too - nice to discover your blog in turn.

  18. I'm always in favour of a health dose of scepticism :) I should try that one day as I'm sure the regular black teas vary. I normally have Madura as my plain variety and that doesn't work well with Soy at all!

    I haven't tried Daintree Tea. Should I? :)

  19. I guess the honest truth is I've always had my tea black anyway :P

  20. I've found these to be great. They're ready to go, so no cooking involved.
    Just toss them into your stir-fry for the last couple of minutes of cooking to heat them through.

    They're tender and take on the flavours of your meal. A great little side to any meal really, without the fuss of waiting for them to cook or added calories for those wtching their weight.
    The health benefits of Konjac as fibre is plus.

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  26. Hi - Like your blog really interesting but just want to clarify something you say about choking blockage hazards for the Changs Lo cal noodles. This is not exactly correct. The Konjac root was used as a basis for little jelly shots that were marketed to children. The product in this shape and having to be sucked from the little plastic cup into the childs mouth then became lodged in their throats and caused them to choke as it was dry and not surrounded by enough liquid in the lolly. Although i want to say that it is horrible the deaths that occured as a result i don't believe the same risk occurs with the noodles. They are packaged in water and most people don't eat them by inhaling the contents directly into the back of their throats - hopefully?
    I like the fact that they are a unique whole food that has been enjoyed in Japan for many centuries. Cheers L


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