Posted: Jan. 3 2008, 12:09 ET
When playing with glucomannan there are various substances that are going to come up over and over again, and it will be easiest if we all use the same terminology for these things. I'm recommending the following, but if anybody knows a more concise or more correct term for any of them, let's hash it out now before we're all used to calling it a certain thing.
glucomannan - this is the fiber extracted from the amorphophallus konjac "tuber" (plant). Sometimes called konjac flour, konjac fiber, etc. When referring to the powdered konjac flour we would call that glucomannan. If you'd all rather call it konjac flour (because it is easier to spell, remember, or whatever), let's debate that now.
calcium hydroxide - calcium hydroxide (a.k.a. "lime") is a base (alkali) used to transform the glucomannan into a permanent gel. It will be combined with water to form an alkaline solution to which the glucomannan will be added. Frequently sold as "pickling lime". For any recipe/instruction purposes here, "Mrs. Wages" brand pickling lime will be used. I prefer to refer to it as calcium hydroxide instead of lime, because some folks get confused and think of the lime fruit when they see "lime", not calcium hydroxide.
jelly - to make the finished shirataki noodles (or other shapes), the first step is generally to combine the glucomannan with water so that a very thick gel-like substance is formed. I say "gel-like" because it is similar in consistency to hair gel, but we shouldn't call it gel because technically "gel" refers to the permanent hydrocolloid that you end up with at the end once you've reacted it with the calcium hydroxide. I've been calling the product of this first step (before "gelling") "goo", but have decided that "jelly" is probably a little more descriptive and correct.
gel - this is what you end up with after you react the jelly with calcium hydroxide and heat it to at least 80 degrees Celsius for 3 to 5 minutes. Once so heated, the permanent gel is formed which will not be affected by immersion in liquids, heat, etc. It can be baked, fried, boiled, basically anything but frozen, and it will not disintegrate or change shape. Freezing mechanically destroys the gel and the water is lost leaving a thin monofilament like thread (in the case of a spaghetti noodle shape). Generally I think we will not refer to the "gel" much because it will be too easy to confuse it with the earlier-stage "jelly". Generally when referring to the finished product I think we should use the term, "shirataki".
pre-gel - This would refer to what you have after you take the jelly, and mix in the calcium hydroxide (or if you originally make the jelly with calcium hydroxide already in it). The pre-gel is different from the jelly in that the presence of the calcium hydroxide makes it able to be cooked into the permanent gel (see "gel" above) whereas heating the jelly won't do anything but make it progressively thicker as the water is driven off. Jelly will never become gel no matter how much you heat it unless you add the calcium hydroxide first.
shirataki - This is the term I think we should use to refer to all finished-product shapes made from the permanent gel. This word can be combined with other words to inform as to what shape it is in -- e.g. "shirataki noodles", "shirataki lasagna", etc.
OK, I think that covers it. Please give me your feedback on the terms. If there are any you want to change, let's get it figured out now so we're all on the same page from the start.