To me, eating lotus root, is akin to eating water chestnuts. Either cooked or raw, they add a slight sweetness and abit of fresh, crunchy fibre to a dish. If eaten cooked, lotus root must be sautéed or cooked not too long, or else you’ve lost that crunch.
One wonders who took the gamble to discover that beneath a beautiful lotus flower and its leafy pads, was an edible root firmly embedded in the lake bed. It must have been a moment of plain hunger. Again, it must have been human ingenuity to use the lotus leaf as a natural food wrapper to steam packets of sticky rice with dried sausage or meat, some beans, a boiled egg or other steamed goodies. Its seeds are also used to make a sweet light brown paste filling for Asian pastries.
Stir Fried, Steamed or Boiled –Savory, Dessert or Medicinal Dishes
Once you understand the right vegetable combinations and some meat, sliced lotus root completes a stir fry, a steamed dish or a consommé noodle soup, without adding much bulk and adds aesthetic interest to a dish.
Once sliced open, you must use within an hour or so since it discolours. Any cut edge for a leftover root, must be protected with a little plastic Saran wrap and stored in the refrigerator. Use within a few days.
I usually find the easiest and quickest way to enjoy fresh lotus root at its best, is to throw in a couple of thin slices into a stir-fry –about mid-way through the cooking dish. I have yet to see and eat an entire dish of lotus root: I’m not so sure that is really recommended from the standpoint of traditional Chinese medicine or healthy eating. It is not a starch.
Fresh lotus root from the store must be dry and firm in touch. If you have a choice, buy the rhizome as two connected pieces, instead of broken or half sliced. As long as the uncut ends look fresh, not mouldy, buy it. Canned lotus root is tasteless and should be a last resort. (Same thing can be said of canned water chestnuts.)
Because of its neutral taste and low calories, a few slices might be simmered in an Asian dessert soup –more as an aesthetic garnish with some minor nutritional benefit. Frankly I’ve never made such dessert soups.
And yes, once upon a time, I did have a few slices in a Chinese medicinal soup that my mother prepared. But I can’t recall much of the ingredient mixes and would not be comfortable giving it here on the ‘Net without understanding the soup’s real effect. She only prepared 1-2 types of medicinal soups –a real amateur in this area.
I’m not a gardener but after combing the Internet, it appears the sacred lotus, nelumbo nucifera, can become a pest in its prolific spread and growth unless it is carefully cultivated in confined areas.
Lotus Leaf and Flower– A Pillar Watercolour Brush Stroke
The lotus flower as an aesthetic inspiration is not only noticeable in traditional Asian artwork and crafts, but also as a foundational brush stroke in Chinese watercolour
Years ago, I tried my awkward hand at classical Chinese watercolour painting in an evening art course. There are several paint brush strokes that must be mastered over and over until you can impart the right hand pressure, brush stroke flair to execute perfect shading for: a bamboo stalk, lotus leaf and flower, as well as a branch of plum blossoms.
I never finished the course. I felt perhaps I didn’t know Chinese paintbrush calligraphy to help me. But now, at least I can appreciate the mastery of single stroke painting style for Chinese watercolour painting when I look at such art work. Execution of lovely lotus flower paintings within an hour is a serious feat, with only black ink, watery pink-red paint strokes and light touch of stamen yellow.
It’s a wonder that the lotus as the sacred flower in Buddhism, the national flower for India, Vietnam and Egypt, gives us a great deal beyond its shimmering floral brilliance floating on the calm waters of a summer lake or pond.