Friday, February 09, 2007

This is What a Lotus Root Looks Like

I like to introduce people to Asian ingredients that sometimes can be an acquired taste. This is one of them. Lotus root is popular in a lot of Asian cooking, but not too many people in the United States have been exposed to it. Since this month is the Lunar New Year on Feb. 18 (celebrated by the Chinese, some Koreans, Vietnamese, and others), I thought I'd share this recipe I created. It's not exactly a traditional dish because I threw in Kielbasa sausages for an extra kick, but it's very similar to what some Chinese families might serve. My mom used to make a simpler stewed lotus root dish using lotus root and roasted pork. It's a stewing process that makes the root tender and it's such a unique texture that I think that's why it's one of my favorite dishes for the new year. I generally like eating lotus root this way, but many Asians also know lotus root as a paste that gets made into a sweet dessert. When the root is cooked to a very tender state, it gets pounded and made into a sweet paste for many dessert cakes and a sweet dessert soup. In Japan, they also pickle it as a condiment. The lotus is an interesting root vegetable as well. Like taro from Hawaii, it grows in really dirty water, almost like a swamp, but creates these beautiful flowers above water. The root part, which is underwater, is harvested and eaten and the flower is just to enjoy.

Many of the lotus root you'll see at the Asian grocery stores are probably shipped in from Asia. Most American chefs typically use lotus root as an accent to a dish. Often they'll slice the root into thin slices and deep fry them to make a chip. That's a shame because this meaty root can be so satisfying. Just see below!

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