April 12, 2019
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Lotus Root: It’s What’s Inside That Counts
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After slicing into this porous tuber, you’ll be rewarded with incredible possibilities for braising and frying.

A lotus root’s initial appearance is largely unassuming, especially when compared to the ethereal blossomed flower it anchors. But slice the sausage link-shaped root crosswise, and the root reveals a beauty of its own: an irregularly radial pattern of pores resembling abstract spokes of a wheel.

Known as lian ou in Chinese herbal remedy soups or renkon in sesame oil-slicked Japanese stir fries, the crisp, earthy root vegetable is common throughout East Asian dishes. Its hearty core can handle a quick fry, but also stays intact even after a slow braise in soy sauce and pork belly juices.

The mighty root is incredibly adaptable: you can stuff ground pork between two slices of it before dropping the mini sandwich into a sizzling oil-filled pan, swish around a handful of the slivered tuber in a wok with chile oil and garlic, or use larger chunks and stuff them with sticky rice before being immersed in a sugary, bubbling broth, finished off with a drizzling of floral osmanthus syrup.

Similar to its root vegetable cousins like potatoes and taro, lotus root is a great candidate for deep-frying into crunchy chips. Seasoned with anori flakes and served as an izakaya snack amongst sizzling yakitori, their crunchy, salty attributes are a great foil to a pint of Asahi.

Equipped with a mandoline (or more consistent knife skills, which I do not have), a shallow pool of oil, and your favorite spices, lotus root chips are just as easily made at home for a deceivingly sumptuous snack.

The key is getting the thickness of each slice right. Too thin, and they’ll quickly burn once they hit the oil, and too thick will yield an unwieldy texture. Keeping each slice around ⅛ inch keeps them crisp, while a soak in vinegar water and a good pat dry before frying keeps its pale color in check.

If you crave lotus root’s pure, earthy taste, salt is all you need. But ignoring your spice rack would be a mistake. After all, no one is reaching for the plain bag of Lay’s—sour cream is always the first one to run out. Each freshly fried batch would benefit from a few flecks of chile, a dusting of cumin, or a sprinkling of togarashi. Garlic, onion, or curry powder are fair game too.

Treat lotus roots as you would potato chips: eat them on their own, as a side dish, or add a layer of them into your sandwich. Each batch can serve as a test run in blending seasonings until you find your favorite. And trust me, there will never be just one batch.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pound lotus root
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi (or any spice of your choice), more as needed
  • Salt to taste

Lotus root chips are an easy homemade snack that’s incredibly rewarding. Shichimi togarashi (ground red chile pepper, sansho, roasted orange peel, black sesame, white sesame, hemp seed, ground ginger, and dried seaweed) adds a nice kick of spice and umami, but garlic or curry powder would also be great substitutes.

  1. Remove the lotus root skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut off the browned ends.
  2. Using a mandoline or a chef’s knife, cut lotus root into even 1/8 inch slices.
  3. Place sliced lotus root into a medium sized bowl and submerge in water plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Let sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Dry the lotus root with paper towels, thoroughly patting down before frying.
  5. Fill a frying pan with oil up to ½ inch on high heat.
  6. Use a wooden chopstick to check if the heat is high enough. Dip the chopstick in the oil, and if it begins to bubble at a steady pace, the oil is hot enough.
  7. Drop slices of lotus root into oil without crowding the pan, making sure they do not stick to each other. It should take 2 to 3 minutes for them to crisp up and turn lightly golden (not dark brown!).
  8. When ready, remove lotus root chips from pan and let cool on a paper towel-covered plate.
  9. Repeat in batches, adding more oil if needed.
  10. After all of the lotus root is fried, transfer the chips to a bowl or large tray. Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and salt, coating and mixing evenly. Taste as you go, and add more accordingly. Serve immediately.

Tatiana Bautista

Tatiana Bautista is an assistant editor at TASTE.

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