Product review: Black soybean spaghetti

Hey kids, I’m back in Ithaca, aaaaand, just in time for this.

It’s a little hard to adapt, after the balmy Beijing winter, but the upside is that this weather is great for cooking, partly because you really will die if you leave the house, and partly because when in doubt, you want to turn the oven on, and hopefully climb in.

So these days, I’ve roasted squash, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted eggplant, and roasted cauliflower. Then I made bread, made pizza, made more bread, and then more pizza. See a trend? It’s all quite tasty, but this being is a low-carb kind of house, we were really craving an alternative.

As always, it’s Aldi to the rescue. Devoted readers of my blog (hi mom!) will know my love of all things Aldi. They have some really unique stuff, much of it sold under their store brand, so when we saw soybean pasta, it looked like something to try.

There’s a lot to like here: the soybean pasta has 44 grams of protein per serving, and 19 grams of carbohydrates–that’s 6x the protein and less than half the carbs of regular pasta. Plus there was the chance that it might turn out to be an interesting new ingredient–not a substitute pasta, but maybe something like tofu skin (豆腐皮), which is one of my favorite, simple dishes.

There were three flavors: soybean, black soybean and edamame (green soybean). We got them all and then promptly forgot about them until the day before yesterday.

First up was the soybean, which I fried with spinach and mozarella cheese. The noodles (let’s not call them pasta) themselves cooked up fast, but as if to spite my dread fear of overcooking pasta, these stayed firm, even after I went a few minutes beyond the recommended cooking time. There was an extremely slight bean taste, but really it was that texture that stood out, and not in a good way. I returned the drained noodles to the pan with the spinach and cooked for another few minutes, but the two were simply not going to blend.

Second up was the black soybean. I wanted to try these with a heavier taste, and so made a strongly flavored meat sauce, but also added a lot of grated carrots and celery to give a nice a vegetal taste that I hoped would match the noodles.

Here again, the problem was the texture. The noodles stayed firm, even after overcooking (this time I tried even longer). Added to the sauce, they absorbed none of the flavor or cooking liquid. People liked the sauce, and they liked the noodles, but they did not like them together. With their brownish color, the noodles looked more like rubber bands than anything you would want for dinner.

To do the product justice, the noodles aren’t bad tasting on their own. They might be good fried, for example in olive oil and garlic, but no matter how you cook them, they are most definitely not pasta.