Down & Dirty

Lotus Root and 4 Ways to Use it

By • December 14, 2013 • 4 Comments

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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more. 

Today: Even if Jack Frost isn’t nipping at your nose yet, you can still enjoy a slice of winter in your kitchen.

Lotus Root and How to Use it, from Food52

When you were a kid, did you revel in catching snowflakes on your mitten to admire them? (We still do.) Were you determined to make the prettiest, most perfect cut-paper snowflakes? (Us too.) If so, it’s time to bring lotus root into your kitchen. While this root (technically a rhizome) might not look like much from the outside, it’s hiding a beautiful lacy interior that when sliced (3, below) reminds us of a snowflake. A tasty, crunchy, edible snowflake. The overachiever in you might like to know that the plant's flowers, leaves, and seeds are all edible, too.

More: Like produce that's hiding something? Try parsley root: it's the herb's dirty little secret.

Lotus Root and How to Use it, from Food52

Look for fresh lotus roots in a well-stocked Asian market. They should be firm and light brown (1); pass on any with soft spots, cracks, or blemishes. They might come linked together in a chain (2) like giant sausages -- if you purchase multiple sections, don’t separate the links. Store lotus root in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp cloth or paper towels in a plastic bag. They’re at their best when very fresh, but can be stored for a couple of weeks.

To prepare your root, peel it with a vegetable peeler first. Many preparations call for thin slices; if yours does, use a mandolin or sharp knife. Preserve their snowy white color by dropping cut slices in an acidulated water bath (4), and if you aren’t planning on cooking them, let them hang out there for awhile -- this has the added benefit of removing any potential bitter aftertaste.

Lotus Root and How to Use it, from Food52

Fry ‘Em Up
Think everything's better fried? Lotus root is no exception. Turn them into tasty root chips or try them as tempura. You can also use slices to hold a ground meat or vegetable filling (like a sandwich) and then pan- or deep-fry them. 

Get Brothy
Lotus root can be poached in dashi broth and packed in your lunch box, and it also works well in soups -- just be aware that the longer lotus root is cooked, the starchier and stickier it gets.

Go Crunchy
Lotus root can be stir-fried or sautéed -- it makes an excellent companion to burdock in kinpira. Try pickling slices (or smaller immature rootlets) or blanching them to use in a salad.

Or Sweet
Candy them and then use them in Diane Morgan’s upside-down lotus root cake, found in Roots, or stuff them with sweet black rice and serve them with honey and Greek yogurt.

Let it snow in your kitchen this week -- tell us how you’ll work lotus root into your meals!

Photos by James Ransom 

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Tags: down and dirty, diagrams, special diets, lotus root, root vegetables, renkon

Comments (4)

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Open-uri.649

about 1 year ago Das_Muller

This tasty root is most commonly enjoyed in a savory soup, with large bones, and dates.

6316848929_fba0cd3703_o

about 1 year ago the totally not-foolish pucko

I've never even seen one. How's the taste?

Dscf2739

about 1 year ago Rachel C.

On its own, the lotus root doesn't have a distinctive taste. The texture, though, is divine in my opinion. I like to blanch them in boiling water, which makes them crispy and crunchy.

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about 1 year ago YenWhite

when i am lucky enough to find it at the asian grocery store here in Missouri, i cook it long and slow with pork neck bones and dried cuttlefish to make a soup that brings me back home to Singapore.