The Art of Aquatic Cooking

Lotus Tubers -
For Eating, Not Planting!

By Tuckfook Ng, Penang, Malaysia 

Lotus tubers come in all shapes and sizes, and most importantly, in different textures and flavours. With all tubers, to be good tasting, they have to be big and fat. Do not use those that look thin and dehydrated. You'll be disappointed.

Most of the edible tubers we get in Malaysia are from China. This is usually in autumn, just before the plants go dormant and when lots of starch has been stored. They are usually about 2-3 inches in diameter and 8-12 inches long between the nodes. Select the smoother skinned tubers without splits or cracks.

Wash the tubers and scrub with a scouring pad or brush. Cut off the ends, about 0.25" from the nodes. You can then store the prepared tuber in a ziplock bag with water in the fridge for up to a week. Do not leave the tuber dry or store it with the nodes still on as it may sprout - which is not our purpose this time!

Cut to size for cooking, size depends on dish prepared. You'll need your sharpest knife. Keep soaking the tuber in clean water before cooking. Letting it dry out makes it tough.

You will notice an interesting thing when you cut lotus tubers, the sap is like melted mozzarella - stringy! I believe mature tubers are less stringy than the young ones. Take time to admire the beautiful patterns within the tuber created by the air chambers. Kids at school are taught to use slices to make prints.

For tempura, cut perpendicularly into thin slices, 1/8 inch maximum. You can later experiment with different shapes and sizes as you will find this tuber lends itself to creative cutting! For soups, use large chunks or 1/4" slices depending on your preferance. Some prefer it finely diced.

Cooking times depend on the texture preferred. A quick fry will give a very crunchy texture like a raw carrot. Boiling for 10 minutes or so produces a texture of a hard cooked potato. Boiling longer does not soften it much more, unlike a potato. The textures vary somewhat with the type of lotus too. Locally grown Malaysian (tropical) lotus tubers are not as crunchy and fragrant as those hardy types from China. Note that this tuber will not mash like a potato.

Lotus Tuber Chicken Soup & Chicken in Plum Sauce
Lotus Tuber Tempura
Fish & Lotus Tuber Stir Fry
Bean Sprout & Lotus Tuber Stir Fry with Crispy Bacon

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