Crunchy and slightly starchy lotus root is an edible rhizome (root) of the lotus plant. It’s a versatile vegetable used in various Japanese dishes.
An oblong, tubular rhizome that grows underground in water, renkon (蓮根・れんこん) or lotus root resembles thick white sausage links. When sliced, it has symmetrical air pockets patterned into a pinwheel shape. It has a dense and crunchy texture similar to water chestnut or taro. It’s native to Asia and a popular ingredient in many Asian cuisines due to its aesthetics.
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What is Lotus Root
Lotus root (Nelumbo nucifera) is the edible rhizome of the lotus plant, around 10-20 cm/3.9-11.4 in length. It grows in the soil of ponds and river bottoms and resembles sausage links. It has beige skin with a cream-colored inside. As it retains its crisp, light, and starchy texture when cooked, it’s cooked in various methods such as stir-fry, pan-fry braise, deep-fry, and boil.
A classic Japanese side dish featuring lotus is kinpira, stir-fried and simmered lotus root seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi or white sesame seeds.
Other names include Sacred Water lotus and Chinese Arrowroot.
What Does It Taste
It has a dense and crunchy texture with a nutty and sweet flavor, similar to water chestnut, taro root, or raw potato.
How To Use
When using fresh lotus root, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, and soak the cuts in rice vinegar or citrus water to prevent discoloration and to improve the crunchiness. Soak for around 5 minutes, drain well and use in your cooking.
Eating it raw is not advised as the high starch and fiber content may cause digestive issues for some people. Raw lotus tastes bitter and tannic, which may be unpleasant.
Cut it into thick or thin slices, chunks, or sections.
Where to Buy
Most Asian and Japanese grocery stores carry lotus root. You can find it packaged and parboiled, which has a less crunchy texture than raw but cooks quickly.
Recipes Using Lotus Root
How To Choose The Best
If buying raw lotus root, buy it whole instead of precut, which will minimize the oxidation. Choose ones that are firm with smooth skin and free of blemishes.
How To Store
Store raw whole lotus root wrapped in damp paper towels and placed in a plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You can also freeze sliced lotus root in the freezer.
Depending on the recipe, you can substitute it for any similar crunchy root vegetable like burdock root or carrots.
In addition to its culinary uses, the stems, roots, and flowers of lotus root have been used for traditional medicinal purposes for centuries. It’s also used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s used to treat inflammation, oral bacteria, high blood pressure, and to aid digestion.
Regarding nutrients, it’s high in vitamins B6, C, folate, potassium, phosphorus and fiber.
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