Thursday, February 14, 2013

Braised Lotus Root with Pork

Before coming to Hong Kong I had never seen a fresh lotus root. I might have eaten lotus root at Chinese restaurants though I am not sure and in the affirmative I did not recall if I liked it or not. What I liked about the plant was its delicate and beautiful flowers. I had seen photos of lotus blooms in ponds and Buddhist images showing figures of Buddha sitting gracefully on a lotus flower. Since then I have discovered that not only the roots but also the pods and seeds of the plant are also edible. 

Look at the lacy pattern of fresh sliced lotus root!

Lotus root or l`ihn-ng’auh, 蓮藕, as it is called in Cantonese, is a root vegetable. It is said to be rich in dietary fibres and minerals.
Lotus root
As I said earlier lotus pod is eatable. Not everybody knows that and many people have never cooked it. Some time ago I saw fresh lotus pods at my favourite vegetable stall in Mongkok. Being very curious (as you know) I bought one and made a soup with it (I followed the seller’s instructions). Ha-ha! My husband found it very strange and I am sure he does not want me to make it a second time. For myself, I am satisfied: I have made my experiment and don’t see the point of trying again, knowing that we have so many other choices of food (which taste much better!)
Lotus pods / Lìhn-pòhng 莲蓬
If lotus pod is not really my cup of tea I cannot say the same about lotus seeds. The seeds are delicious: they are used in their dried form in soups (sweet or savoury) and also made into candies (very popular during Lunar New Year festival). Seeds are also made into a paste. The latter is the most traditionally used filling in moon cakes.

I know that starch is also made with lotus root and used in some Chinese desserts but I’ve never used it myself.
However, the part of the lotus plant that I often cook and like very much is the rhizomes. Besides making soups with them I also like them in stew.
Here is the recipe that I have been using for many years. This is one of my preferred winter dishes. I like the crunchy and sweet flesh of lotus root and the flavour of red fermented bean curd.

Braised Lotus Root with Pork
Note: You can replace ribs with pork belly if you like pork rind (I love it!)
  • 350 g pork ribs (cut into bite size)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 2 tbsp. ginger juice
  • 2 tbsp. Chinese rice wine
  • ½ catty lotus root (~300g)
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ½ tbsp. Chinese rice wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. light soy
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  1. Place pork in the boiling water. Add the ginger juice and wine to cook for 5 minutes. Refresh and drain.
  2. Wash, peel and slice the lotus root.
  3. Mash the ginger, shallots and garlic.
  4. Heat the oil in an earthen pan. Sauté the ginger, shallots and garlic till fragrant. Add the fermented bean curd to sauté for a while, pour in the pork and lotus root to mix well.
  5. Sizzle the wine; add the water and cover to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and season to taste. Continue to cook for 10 minutes then serve.

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