Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stir-fried lotus root with sesame and green onions

Kimiko Barber writes about this vegetable in her The Japanese Kitchen: "The lotus, a perennial aquatic plant and a member of the water lily family, is a native of Asia. It has long been associated with Buddhism and statues of Buddha are always seated on a cushion that depicts a lotus flower. Man's struggle to redeem himself and to rise above the material world to realise his divine potential of purity is reflected in how the lotus grows in a muddy pond and yet produces the most beautiful flowers."

It is also surprisingly tasty. I'd been trying to get fresh lotus root from my local Asian market after seeing them there one day, but not buying. The next few times I went, the ones they had were small and oxidized brown and old-looking. Finally, hurray, some fresh ones arrived! I bought two connected pieces to show you how they grow, and made this recipe from JustHungry with one of the pieces.

What does it taste like? Raw, it's crunchy, slightly sweet, slightly bitter with tannins (the same sort of tannins that make tea or red wine slightly bitter), and fibrous enough that I personally don't think I would eat it raw. When you cook it, the bitterness disappears but the crunchy sweetness remains, and it's quite delicious lightly fried even without a sauce of any kind. I would buy this again, and I would like to try it in Western dishes as well as Asian ones.

So here's the recipe, exactly as Maki wrote it. If you click on the link below you'll see she has some great pictures, and her image of the finished dish is much better than mine. I doubled it so I could use up one whole piece, since sliced lotus root discolours like apples if it's not soaked in rice vinegar and water after slicing. Use the soy sauce sparingly, tasting as you go, so the dish doesn't become too salty (mine was a little too salty).

Stir-fried lotus root with sesame and green onions
from JustHungry
Serves 2 as a side dish

1/2 lotus root, sliced very thinly
1 piece of fresh ginger about 1 inch / 2 cm or so long, peeled and chopped
2 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups of roughly chopped green onions
2 tbsp hot red chili pepper, finely chopped
Vinegar for the lotus root water
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Put the sliced lotus root into vinegar water as you slice it, as described above. Drain well just before cooking.

Heat up a large frying pan with the oil. Add ginger and garlic, and stir fry until the oil is very fragrant. Add the drained lotus root slices in a single layer. Cook until the lotus root slices start to change color - they turn a bit translucent looking. Turn over and cook a couple more minutes.

Add the chili pepper and green onions, and stir-fry. Add the sesame seeds, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil. The lotus roots should get a bit caramelized from the soy sauce. Serve hot or cold.

I had it both hot and cold, and it was very good both ways. Served here with a quick cucumber-cabbage pickle, steamed broccoli with soy sauce and sesame seeds, a simmered mushroom dish from The Japanese Kitchen, a slice of very fresh tofu with white sesame sauce, and brown rice.


  1. It looks great! I have never made lotus root before but now I want to.

  2. What a pretty pretty vegetable and what an awesome looking stir fry!

  3. This is beautiful! I often forget how nice it is to combine complex dishes with simple dishes. It really rounds out the meal and, especially in this case, makes it more attractive.

  4. Yum, I have never known what to do with lotus root, although I had it once in a restaurant as tempura and it was odd.
    I love weird foods though.