In China, many food ingredients are used not only for their flavors or textures, but also for their health benefits and healing properties.

Lotus is probably the best example of those double-duty ingredients.  Many parts of lotus plant, including the leaves, flower stalks, seeds, and roots, are used in both Traditional Chinese medicine and various dishes.

Take lotus root for example.  It is a great source of dietary fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins.  It has cooling effects on your body, because it helps get rid of body’s toxic wastes and prevent it from overheating.

In cooking, the crunchy and crispy texture of lotus root makes it a perfect ingredient for stir-frying and pickling.  It is also used frequently in slow-cooked dishes such as soups, braises, and stews.  After long cooking, lotus root is completed transformed in both its flavor and texture.  But unlike some other root vegetables, it retains its shape and does not get mushy or mealy even after extended cooking.

In my recipe below, I’m using lotus root to make an Asian-style quick pickle with rice vinegar and sugar.  Ginkgo nuts and wood ear mushrooms are also included to add colors and textures to the dish.

This is a perfect cooling and feel-good dish for the summer.

Pickled lotus root salad with ginkgo nuts and wood ear mushrooms

Ingredients

9 oz (255 g) lotus root
1/8 cup wood ear mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
10 ginkgo nuts (precooked)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Procedure:

  1. Peel the lotus root and trim the ends.  Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch (3 mm) slices.  Keep the slices in acidulated water to prevent from discoloration.
  2. Remove any hard or knobby bits from the soaked wood ear mushrooms and cut into thin slices.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Briefly blanch the lotus root slices until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the boiling water and cool in ice or cold water.  Drain and pat dry.
  4. In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the rice vinegar.  Add the lotus root slices, wood ear mushrooms, and ginkgo nuts.  Mix well.  Pickle for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  5. Just before serving, mix in the sesame oil and season with salt and pepper.
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