When I went to the wet market today, my go-to Aunty for fresh vegetables had just unopened a cartload of fresh lotus roots, all coated in mud. I had read in a book on Cantonese cuisine that these are of a softer texture when cooked, compared to the clean ones. So whatever chance I get, I buy the mud-covered ones and will cook it on the same day. Yes, it takes a little more effort to scrub them down, but when washed, peeled and cut, the beautiful creamy white flesh of the lotus root is just reward for all the effort!
The lotus root is a nutritionally rich source of calcium, iron and fibre. These nutrients are seen as highly essential – calcium impacts our bone strength and density and influences heart function; iron boosts production of blood haemoglobin and myoglobin production; and fibre helps maintain digestive and bowel health. The lotus root is also a beneficial source of anti-oxidants (source: http://www.livestrong.com).
In Chinese cuisine, the lotus root is often eaten raw in salads or pickles, in stir-fry dishes with other vegetables or meat, deep fried, or stewed in soup. I like it any way it is prepared, as it retains its mildly sweet taste and crunchy texture. In Chinese food therapy, the lotus root is of a ‘cool’ nature and believed to reduce internal ‘heat’. It is also said that it replenishes ‘Qi’ and nourishes the blood, thereby improving the body’s immune system, and invigorates the spleen. Eating lotus can also improve poor appetite, and promotes digestive health.
Here is a recipe for lotus root with peanuts, stewed in a broth with sweet carrots, dried scallops, dried squid and red dates.
300 gm Pork Ribs or Meat
1 long Lotus Root
2 Carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 of 1 large Dried Squid, snipped into 1-inch segments
3 small Dried Scallops
12 small Red Dates
1/4 cup Peanuts
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. Wash and soak peanuts in hot water for at least half an hour to one hour*. Discard the water, and wash thoroughly. Wash red dates and dried scallops, and soak separately in hot water until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water. Wash the dried squid thoroughly.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lotus root. Wash and cut into roughly 1-cm thick slices.
3. Meanwhile, fill a saucepan or small pot with water and bring to a boil. Put in pork ribs or meat and blanch for a minute or so to remove impurities. Discard the water and wash the meat clear of all scum and grit.
4. Put all the ingredients into a slow cooker. Pour in chicken stock or water until just enough to immerse all the ingredients. Cook on Auto or High setting for at least 4 hours. If cooking in a deep pot, bring all the ingredients in stock or water to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for at least 3 hours, or longer (as this is a soup in which the flavours will develop and come together better with a longer simmering time), or until meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Season to taste.
5. When serving, scoop a little of each ingredient – meat, lotus root slices, carrot chunks and some groundnuts – into individual serving bowls and fill with soup. Alternatively, you may scoop all the ingredients into a large soup dish and fill with soup. Serve hot.
One thing which requires special mention here is that whenever cooking with peanuts, it is important for our health to understand the risks associated with potentially consuming a toxic mould called aflatoxin most commonly associated with contaminated nuts, corn and cottonseed. It depends on where the nuts originate and how it is processed, and is usually more of a problem in developing countries. I always soak peanuts in water to which I add a few drops of a Fruit and Vegetable Rinse (a naturally-derived product by Sunrider, USA) to reduce or minimise amounts of aflatoxin, which has been proven to be carcinogenic, i.e. a cancer-causing constituent. Read more about aflatoxin here.