Long and shapely, sensuous, an ancient symbol of sexual purity and detachment, the lotus root deserves more attention. It has an improbably beautiful lacy interior. The root is crunchy, mildly sweet, fibrous, versatile, so why hasn’t lotus root gone more mainstream? It’s a regular player in Chinese food, but it hasn’t crossed over to the fusion world. Yet.
I’ve always loved the look and the flavor, and found them in the market the other day when I was looking for some inspiration. Now that I had the oddly beautiful tuber in my kitchen, I needed to do a little research.
When you buy fresh lotus root, the fresher roots are vanilla white and they darken with age. Most references recommend putting the slices in acidulated water while you are working as this neutralizes some of the tannic properties of the root. One of the sites also recommended lotus root for a bleeding esophagus or if you are vomiting blood. Do me a favor, if you experience these symptoms...don’t just reach for a lotus root, call a doctor, ok?
The experiments started with sauteed lotus root with pea shoots. It’s a classic Asian combination: ginger root, a little garlic, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. The root cooks very quickly, just a minute or two and it was soft. It absorbs flavors very nicely, but still keeps it’s own unique character.
Next up: lotus root chips. Thinly sliced and quickly fried, finished with salt, smoked paprika and chili pepper. Oh yeah... that works, just fine. Maybe next time with a lime zest salt. Warning, you need a very sharp knife or a mandolin slicer as the root is fragile and a dull knife will break up the lacy pattern.
I’m not done with lotus root yet. It’s just begging to be roasted with olive oil and garlic. Maybe it would work well pureed with a bit of vanilla bean, but that would mean destroying the lace and I’m not sure I can do that. Could you pipe a filling into the holes, roast it and then slice? Oh, the possibilities.