Braised beef and arrowhead with five-spice powderArrowhead is a name given to several species of plants that belong to the genus of Sagittaria, because of their arrowhead-shaped leaves.

Although nowadays arrowhead is rarely seen in food markets in the US, it was once a favorite food of many Native American tribes.  Their edible corms were collected and consumed as food source, which is why it is sometimes called Indian potato.  High in starch and with a taste somewhat between potatoes and chestnuts, the corms were eaten raw, boiled, roasted, mashed, or ground into flours.  Some tribes even used the plant for medicinal purposes.

ArrowheadIt puzzles me why arrowhead has become obscure in the US.  Perhaps new food trends will push it to stardom again, just as what happened to other ancient food staples such as quinoa.

Before that happens, your best chance to find arrowhead is in Chinatown, because its star power in Chinese cooking has never faded.  Called Ci Gu (茨菰) in Mandarin, it arrives in the market during the winter months, and is a popular food around Chinese New Year.

Once you trim the shoot and bottom of the arrowhead corm and remove its skin, you can use it very much the same way as potatoes in stir-fries, braises, or soups.  In particular, any “meat and potatoes” recipe works nicely with arrowhead.

The recipe I’m sharing below is one of my favorite ways of cooking arrowhead.  The rich flavors of the beef, the irresistible aromas of the five-spice powder, and the subtle earthiness of the arrowhead meld beautifully after braising together.  For your ultimate “meat and potatoes” experience, deep-fry sliced arrowhead to make fantastic chips!

You can use store-bought five-spice powder, or for best results, make your own by following my recipe here.


Braised beef and arrowhead with five-spice powder

Makes 2 servings


9 oz (255 g) arrowhead, ends trimmed, peeled, and cut in half
14 oz (400 g) beef (round or chuck), cut into 2-inch (5 cm) cubes
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1-inch ginger, crushed
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper


  1. Add the oil to a hot wok or skillet over high heat.  Season the beef cubes lightly with salt and sear them in the wok until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the ginger and Shaoxing wine, and stir for 15 seconds.
  2. Add 1 cup of water, the five-spice powder, soy sauce, and sugar.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer.
  3. Braise, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the meat is tender.  Remove impurities that rise to the top from time to time during cooking.
  4. Remove the cover and add the arrowhead.  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and cooked, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, or until the arrowhead turns soft and the cooking liquid is reduced.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.   Garnish with the scallion and serve immediately.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tagged with: