Beautiful and delicious lotus: culinary splendor of the lotus plant

LOTUS flowers are considered divine symbols of integrity in Chinese culture. They grow in muddy, swampy ponds, breaking the surface of the water as they bloom with totally pristine petals.

Dried and ripe lotus seeds are much more common as a food. They are usually cooked in congees and soups (both sweet and savory) to increase taste and health benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, lotus seeds have soft and neutral properties, and are used to tone the spleen and kidneys and nourish the heart.

“I only like the lotus, because it comes out of the mud while remaining intact; bathed in pure currents but shows no coquetry”, poem by the Northern Song philosopher (960-1127) Zhou Dunyi (1017- 73) “On the love of the lotus.”

In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech and spirit. Classical paintings often depicted deities sitting on lotus flowers.

The entire lotus plant, from the muddy root to the pure flower, is a treasure trove of Chinese food culture. The lotus season begins in summer and extends until fall. Lotus root is alive all year round with modern agriculture and logistics, but other parts of the plant are very seasonal.

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The lotus plant is considered a treasure in Chinese culinary culture, with flowers that symbolize purity, an edible root, and seeds with great health benefits.

Lotus roots

The lotus root is the most common and frequently used part. It is a fat-free, low-calorie root vegetable, high in beneficial nutrients like potassium, and its insoluble fiber can aid digestion.

There are generally two types of lotus root in Chinese cuisine that differ in texture – crunchy and starchy lotus root. Different recipes require different types of lotus roots for better taste and texture.

The crunchy root makes excellent cold salads, perfect for the summer season. Thin slices of lotus root can be briefly poached in boiling water to remove the slight astringency and muddy taste, then rinsed with ice water to preserve the crunchy texture. You can then toss the slices with your favorite dressing, which can be sweet and sour or spicy and sour, and the tiny holes in the lotus root can coat more of the flavorful sauce.

This type of lotus root is also great for quick vegetable stir-fries. The dish with the poetic name of “lotus pond stir-fry” is a classic recipe for quickly sautéing sliced ​​lotus roots, carrots, snow peas, yams and black mushrooms, a visually pleasing dish which looks like a garden on a plate.

Beautiful and delicious lotus: culinary splendor of the lotus plant

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The “Lotus Garden” stir-fry

Crunchy textured vegetables like lotus root (and water chestnuts) can be added to ground meats to enhance the flavor and texture of meatballs and meatball toppings.

The lotus root itself also makes excellent vegan “meatballs” – grate the vegetable into thin strips, squeeze the moisture through gauze (save the juice for later use) and season with salt, five-spice and pepper powders.

Heat the lotus root juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the texture thickens, then pour it over the lotus root shreds and mix a little flour well, giving the mixture the necessary stickiness. to form the balls, which are then fried.

Lotus balls can be enjoyed piping hot with a dip or seasoned chili powder, or cooked in quick soups with other vegetables.

Starchy lotus root, on the other hand, is best suited for cooking in soups. Lotus root and pork rib soup is an all-time classic, requiring minimal salt and ginger seasoning.

The key is to enjoy the original flavors of lotus root and protein, as the large chunks of lotus root soak up the rich broth fully.

Chunks of fresh corn or peanuts can also be added to the soup, which will give it a more natural sweetness.

Beautiful and delicious lotus: culinary splendor of the lotus plant

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Lotus root soup with pork chops

On the sweet side, lotus root stuffed with sticky rice is an all-time favorite. Using the starchy variety of the lotus root, select the whole segments with regular holes and cut off one side of the cap, then stuff the sticky rice that has been soaked in water overnight into the holes until ‘they are filled. Put the cap back on and secure it with a few toothpicks.

Then, in a deep saucepan, put 100 grams of brown sugar and enough water to cover the lotus root, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour. Then add the icing sugar and cook for another hour.

Let the lotus root cool and cut it carefully. Serve with a pinch of dried osmanthus flower for decoration and aroma. If you reduce the sugar during cooking, the sliced ​​stuffed lotus root can be glazed with osmanthus flower syrup to enhance the aroma and flavor.

Lotus root is also used to make phew, or lotus powder, which is a specialty dessert and snack from Hangzhou.

After mixing the lotus powder with hot water, it becomes sticky and starchy, with a semi-transparent pink tint and natural lotus root scent. Packaged lotus powder includes both sweet and unsweetened versions, and the elevated recipes have additional ingredients like nuts, dried fruit, and osmanthus flower.

Udai, which translates to lotus belt, is the tender young lotus root resembling an asparagus.

It is a specialty of the province of Hubei, with a delicate and crunchy texture. Baby lotus roots are usually lightly sautéed with chili and vinegar, or marinated to serve as a savory side dish.

Beautiful and delicious lotus: culinary splendor of the lotus plant

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Lotus root stuffed with sticky rice

Lotus seeds

Fresh and tender lotus seeds can be eaten straight away. They are slightly sweet and crunchy. Fresh seeds are often sold in pods, which makes picking the seeds even more fun and peeling off the thick, green skin. The seed embryos have a bitter taste and can also be removed.

Dried and ripe lotus seeds are much more common as a food. They are usually cooked in congees and soups (both sweet and savory) to increase taste and health benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, lotus seeds have soft and neutral properties, and are used to tone the spleen and kidneys and nourish the heart.

Lotus Seed White Mushroom Soup is a classic recipe believed to nourish yin energy and remove internal heat. White fungus was once a dried product that required reconstitution by soaking in water for several hours. Now, fresh white mushrooms are easily found in supermarkets, and they are more tender with a natural floral scent. The soup simply simmers the white mushroom and lotus seeds until the texture becomes slightly thickened and smooth, and it can be served cold, iced, or hot depending on the season. Additional ingredients such as red jujubes and goji berries can also be added to increase nutritional value and taste.

Lotus seeds are also made into a classic moon cake filling. Lotus seed paste leans on the sweet side, as it is made by sautéing crushed lotus seeds with sugar and oil. White lotus paste is made from white sugar, while red lotus paste is made from brown sugar. The lotus seed paste and double egg yolk moon cake are an all-time favorite and are perfect to share with the family over a nice teapot to balance the rich and sweet flavors.

Beautiful and delicious lotus: culinary splendor of the lotus plant

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The flower and the leaf

The heavenly lotus flower is also edible. Fried lotus flower made by coating the fresh petals with a paste of egg, flour and sugar is a summer snack. The gorgeous lotus flower petals can also be used as small plates and bowls, adding a pink tint to the dining table.

Another recipe to relieve the heat is the frozen lotus flower congee. The congee is cooked with traditional or sticky rice, job tears, and lotus seeds, then chilled in the refrigerator overnight and served with shreds of fresh lotus flower on top.

The huge leaves of the lotus plant are used as wrappers to cook different dishes, such as beggar’s chicken, Cantonese dim sum chicken, and sticky rice wrap.

Dried lotus leaf tea is an herbal tea with great health benefits such as helping to control weight, remove heat, and relieve swelling – a great summer drink.


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Linda Jennings

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