Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Alien Ingredient #21: Lotus Root

Don't ask me why I've never worked with fresh lotus root before; I've certainly had the opportunity many times over the past 30 years. My guess is that I have tasted it before in a hot pot and had written it off as another bland vegetable. Take a good look at these lotus roots to the left: they are not what you want to buy. See the discoloration? No bueno. I didn't have any choice in these really; they were all the store had when I needed them for a hotpot requested by a customer. Well, truth be told, I did have a choice; I could have bought pre-prepped ones in the deli section of the store, but I see no need to pay someone else for 30 seconds of work on my part.

It takes no effort at all to peel the roots and then slice them. They do start to discolor a bit after a few minutes, so it is a good idea to cook them right away or store them under water, just as you would a potato. And because they come from fresh water, it is a good idea to blanch them to make sure that you kill any bacteria or parasites that they may be harboring.

Lotus roots fall into my category of bland vegetables that I use for texture in a dish, right alongside water chestnuts, daikon, and jicama. They also braise very well and perhaps surprisingly, they make interesting chips/crisps in the manner of potatoes.

Vote: low in calories, low in flavor, high in cool looks—there's nothing much to love or hate about this mostly boring root.

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