Lotus Root

Lotus Root

Latin name: Nelumbo nucifera
Other names: Indian Lotus, Holy lotus
Uses: vegetable, seasoning

What are lotus roots?

The lotus is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow fresh water, with flat round leaves that float on the surface and famously beautiful flowers. While the entire plant is edible, the root that grows underwater is particularly popular in Asia, and especially in Japanese cooking. The lotus root is a rhizome of the flower, and it can grow rather long underwater, forming sausage-like links. Symbolizing purity and beauty, the lotus flower is considered sacred in Asian cultures and is symbolic in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Why is lotus root healthy?

Lotus root contains several important minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and choline. It’s also high in vitamin C and folate. The root has a long history of traditional use for a wide range of conditions: digestive issues, obesity, low blood pressure, and depression.

What does lotus root taste like? 

The lotus root is a mild-tasting mixture of the flavors of potato and coconut, with a crunch comparable to celery or bell pepper. When cooked — often in a soup, stew, or curry — it becomes softer but retains a bit of bite.

How do I use lotus root?

Slice lotus root crosswise to expose the unique patterns formed by the water channels within. Before cooking, it needs to be cut at the links (where some thread-like roots may be visible) to separate the segments. The thin outer skin needs to be removed before cooking as well. Chopsticks or satay sticks help push out any dirt inside the holes. The versatile lotus root can be prepared in a number of ways: deep-fried, braised, boiled, or pickled. It also makes a striking garnish.

What does lotus root pair well with? 

Because it’s a fairly neutral flavor, lotus root enjoys the company of bolder companions, like East or Southeast Asian spices and sauces.

Where does lotus root grow? 

The lotus plant grows in water up to 10 feet (3m) deep, with its roots in the nutrient-rich soil at the bottom. Lotus is widely distributed from India through East and Southeast Asia and Oceania. The lotus is the national flower of India and Vietnam.

How to buy lotus root:

Look for it at Asian markets, where if it’s fresh you want firm, smooth sections of root. You will also often find it packaged in the refrigerated section. Store it in your fridge for up to a week.

Fun lotus root fact: 

The oldest recorded lotus germination came from seeds nearly 1,300 years old, discovered in a dry lakebed in northeastern China.