In Japan, it is not uncommon to see the root of the Sacred Lotus (it looks similar to the water lily but has a few different visual details). My first encounter was on a cold winter evening eating my first bowl of homemade udon with a side of real Japanese tempura (battered vegetables). I remember seeing this thick white potato chip with numerous holes placed throughout. At first I thought it was just my host mother trying to be super fancy (not uncommon) and making the potatoes look a bit more decorative. Japanese chefs tend to cut carrot slices into various shapes to get children to enjoy his/her vegetables. It’s all visual instead of edible-temptation appeal.
My first bite was unforgettable seeing that I was expecting the starchy smooth taste of a boiled potato but in turn bite into a crunchy, slightly stiffer chip. The texture is actually a lot like a carrot only without the sweet flavor. My host mother had been watching me eat (as most people did while living there), and laughed at my mistake instantly knowing what was going through my mind. She said it was a root called a renkon and after further investigating the new food in the dictionary, we both found out it was in fact a root from the lotus plant. Never in my life had I ever heard of anyone eating the root of a lotus plant. Previously I had read about the Chinese aristocracy and other “well-off” citizens bloomed lotus flowers in hot water as a special tea for when company came. Whether this was just in old Chinese literature books or not, I’m not sure.
Thankfully the lotus root is not strong, in fact has very little taste at all. But then again many people state that tofu has very little flavor and will absorb any flavor it is cooked. For me, it has a great creamy taste unlike anything else and is one of my most favorite things to eat. I guess what most people say about tofu goes forth as the same description for lotus root. Hence, if you prefer strong flavors, I highly suggest cooking it with something else with a strong flavor so it will be more appealing.
For me, I love the fact that lotus root is not very pricy when bought in Chinese grocery stores. It can be found in prepackaged plastic wrap in the chilled section with other fresh produce already sliced, in root form near the root vegetables like potatoes or even in cans however I have no idea what state those come in since I’ve never ventured to purchase a can. If less adventurous is more your thing, you can also purchase some pickled lotus root slices near the refrigeration section. I believe when I lived in Japan I saw some that was frozen but here in the states it is hard to find frozen.
Lotus Root has many medicinal properties that have been used by Chinese doctors for thousands of years. This is mainly due to it being very high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin, manganese and so on which can help alleviate a lot of illnesses. Taking into consideration the health benefits it naturally contains, it is no wonder the Japanese like to use it in salad, soup, fried dishes, and so on. Word of warning though, since it does contain a high amount of fiber one with digestive issues or IBS should definitely moderate the amount eaten at one meal.
In our household, I have introduced this new food to my husband quite a few times. He’s not a huge fan since it basically doesn’t have a particular flavor to call its own. I have made it in renkon/hamburgers, salads, soups and now I’m trying different types of snack items. The other day I got this great idea to try to make these light crispy root chips into something similar to a snacky potato chip. For a small amount though I didn’t want to fire up the entire oven to I chose to go the other route and make them in the toaster oven. Boy am I glad I tried this out. We first tried on the BBQ but who has time to get out the BBQ out when you want a small snack, not me. Here’s the recipe that worked great:
2 cups sliced renkon (lotus root), patted dry with a towel
2-4 tsp Cajun seasoning (or you can use cinnamon ‘n sugar mixture for a sweet treat)
Line your toaster oven tray with aluminum foil. Spray with oil. Then place the sliced lotus root on the foil. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Toast in the toaster oven for about 7-9 minutes. Flip, sprinkle and toast once again. Enjoy!