Lotus root is widely used in Asian recipes and is known for its nutrients and health benefits. The root plant is extremely versatile. It can be made into healthy snacks, sides, a main dish and even dessert! Here are 9 ways on how to cook lotus root in less than 5 steps at home. Learn these popular recipes sourced from Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian cuisine.
What is Lotus Root?
It is the edible stem of the lotus flower. The flower is an aquatic plant that bears white or pink flowers. It is native to Asia, Australia and parts of the Middle East. The flowers of the plant often symbolise purity and beauty. The plant can grow up to 4 feet long. Segmented rhizomes (edible stem) of the plant are 10 to 20 cm in length with a diameter of 6 to 10 cm. Fresh roots are light brown in colour while the matured ones are dark brown.
The root plant typically grows in shallow ponds and marshes. This edible stem has cylinder-shaped segments that are linked together like sausages. Its long and tubular roots have symmetrically arranged air canals running along its length and giving it a unique appearance. It is called Lian Ou (莲藕) in China, Renkon (れんこん) in Japan and Yeonguen (연근) in Korea, and Kamal Kakdi in India. In Malaysia and Singapore, the root vegetable represents abundance and is eaten during Chinese New Year.
What does renkon taste like?
It is mildly sweet and resembles the taste of water chestnuts. The texture of the edible stem is crisp and crunchy. It is also described as a chewy potato, when steamed or boiled as a stew.
Renkon Nutrition and Benefits
The edible stem is packed with nutrients and minerals including Vitamin C, Vitamin B, iron, potassium, copper, thiamin, and zinc. It provides a good source of protein and dietary fibre. It has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as well as cooking for its benefits. Here are the 6 nutritional health benefits of the edible stem.
- Regulates blood pressure
- Helps digestion
- Promotes weight loss
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Ease menstrual pain
- Prevents excess water retention
How to prepare renkon
The fresh root vegetable can be prepared in a few easy steps. Firstly, peel off the brown skin and cut into slices. Sometimes, dirt might get trapped in between the rhizomes. So, make sure to wash thoroughly with cold water. As the root plant contains a high amount of starch, it will begin to discolour when exposed to air. Therefore, place the cut slices in a bowl of cold water with a few drops of white vinegar to preserve the colour. If you are using the dry root vegetable, soak this in water for at least 30 minutes before use. If you are using frozen lotus root, allow this to thaw for 10 minutes before using it in any recipe. You can buy the edible stem in many forms in Asian supermarkets and online.
9 Nutritious Renkon Recipes To Try
Sourced from parts of China, Japan, Korea and India, here are some popular recipes from the region. Use the root plant in snacks, sides, as a main and even in desserts and tea! Let’s begin with the snacks and starters!
Pickled Lotus Root Salad
A pickled tart salad perfect for the summer days! Try this vegan and gluten-free salad for a refreshing yet filling afternoon snack. To make this spicy, drizzle over the optional spicy sauce.
- 100g of the edible stem, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick
- 1 tbsp oil 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup water
- 1½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 scallion, chopped
- ½ tbsp sesame seeds
- More kosher salt, to taste
Optional Spicy Sauce
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp LaoGanma chilli sauce or Chinese red oil
- 2 tsp chopped ginger
- ½ tbsp black vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp sugar
- Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil, the edible stem, ½ tsp sugar and some salt. Cook for 5 minutes until the root vegetable begins to soften.
- Add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and close the lid. Leave this to simmer for another 5 minutes. For a more crunchy texture, remove from heat earlier.
- Drain and transfer the edible stem to a large bowl. Add the rice wine vinegar, chopped scallion, ½ tsp of sugar and sesame seeds. Toss and mix well. Add salt to taste.
Baked Renkon Chips
A healthy snack that makes a good substitute for potatoes chips. Experiment different spices and create your own flavour of chips! Alternatively, enjoy them with a gochujang mayo or guacamole dip. This snack can be made in the oven or an air fryer.
- 200g of the edible stem, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch thick
- 1 tsp of ground black pepper
- ½ tbsp salt
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil (add more for the pan)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large bowl, add the root vegetable, sesame oil, black pepper and salt. Mix well until evenly covered.
- Add oil to the baking sheet and place the sliced vegetables on top.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Enjoy with a dip or by itself.
Kinpira Renkon, Japanese Style Stir Fry
Kinpira renkon is a simple dish served in Japanese homes as a starter or side. This Japanese lotus root recipe can be made gluten-free by substituting the soy sauce with tamari sauce.
- 230g of the edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 dried red chilli pepper, cut finely
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (roasted)
- ½ Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 1 Tbsp mirin
- ½ Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- In a large pan, add sesame oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the root vegetable and stir occasionally.
- Once the vegetable turns slightly translucent add in your seasonings. This included mirin, sake and sugar. Then, add in red chilli pepper and soy sauce. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Once the liquid reduces, add in toasted white sesame seeds. Toss and serve hot.
Yeongeun Jorim, Sweet Soy Braised Root Vegetable
Yeongeun Jorim is a typical Korean side dish that is popular in autumn. It is crunchy, sweet and savoury!
- 250g of the edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- ½ tsp sesame seeds – optional garnish
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine
- ½ tbsp for less sweet
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tbsp corn syrup or 1 tbsp honey
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- In a large pot, boil the root vegetable for 10 minutes. Boil for another 10 minutes for a softer texture.
- Drain and transfer to another large pot. Add cooking oil, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Bring this to a boil, uncovered, over a medium-high heat. This should be around 15-20 minutes.
- When the liquid is reduced to about 4 tablespoons, add the corn syrup and sesame oil. Stir well for 3 to 4 minutes. Plate and garnish with white toasted sesame seeds.
Slow Cooker Chinese Soup with Pork Ribs and Peanuts
This slow-cooked Chinese lotus root soup recipe is filling and packed with nutrients. Many Chinese households will make this soup during Chinese New Year as it is an auspicious symbol of wealth and abundance.
Also, the soup helps to ease menstrual pain through improving blood circulation. This is because the method of slow cooking helps to retain the nutrients of the lotus root.
Chinese Lotus Root Soup with Pork Ribs and Peanuts
- 250 g edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 100 g pork ribs (can be substituted with chicken or anchovies)
- 1 l water
- 100 g peanuts
- 4 red dates (pitted, optional for extra sweetness)
- 3 slices ginger
In a large pot, add the root vegetable, pork ribs, ginger, red dates, peanuts and water. Bring to boil.
Once this has boiled, turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover with lid. Allow the soup to simmer for at least 2 hours.
To reduce the calories of this soup, use less peanuts in the recipe or remove this.
Chinese Stir Fry with Wood Ear Mushrooms
This Chinese style stir fry is packed with flavour. Cooked this way, the root vegetable absorbs the sauce that’s made from oyster sauce, ginger, garlic and Shaoxing wine. A delicious vegetable side dish that can be eaten as a main with rice. To make this vegetarian dish gluten-free, use gluten-free oyster sauce.
- 350g of the edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 8 wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into slices
- ½ cup sugar snap peas
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp oyster sauce
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 slices ginger
- 2 scallions, cut into 1-inch sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp cornstarch (combined with 1 tablespoon water)
- In a large pot, boil and blanch the edible stem, sugar snap peas and mushrooms for 1 minute. Drain and set aside. Mix in a small bowl, the chicken stock, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, and white pepper and set aside.
- In a large pan, add sesame oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Then, add the garlic and scallions. Cook for another 30 seconds and add the vegetables.
- Stir-fry for 1 minute and add the Shaoxing wine to the pan. Then, add the sauce mixture. Cook until the sauce simmers. Add the cornstarch and water mixture to thicken the sauce.
- Stir-fry for another 30 seconds and serve hot.
Indian Kamal Kakdi Sabji
Sabji or Sabzi, is an Indian cuisine term. It describes vegetable dishes cooked in gravy. This Indian lotus root recipe is moderately spicy and is perfect served with daal or flatbread.
- 250g edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 2 medium onions, grated
- 2 large tomato, pureed
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 cloves
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp mustard oil
- 2 tsp mustard seed or honey-dijon mustard
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
- Salt to taste
- Oil for deep frying
- Coriander leaves for garnish
- In a large pot, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Deep fry the edible stems for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Once this is done, deep fry the potatoes for 3-4 minutes.
- In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat and add cumin. Once the cumin begins to brown, add cinnamon and clove. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the onions and fry till golden brown. Secondly, add ginger-garlic paste and fry for another 2 minutes.
- Add tomato puree and cook until the liquid is reduced. Then, add all the dry spices except for garam masala. Add the fried root vegetables and cook for 5 minutes.
- Lastly, add lemon juice and garam masala. Sautee for another 2 minutes. Garnish this with coriander leaves and serve with flatbread or daal.
Root Vegetable Stuffed With Glutinous Rice
Stuffed with sticky rice, this is a classic appetizer from China. However, as the dish has a floral sweet taste, it can also be served as a dessert. This dish can be served both warm or cold.
- 400g of the edible stem, peeled but uncut.
- 150g glutinous rice
- 2 tsp white sugar
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tbsp osmanthus syrup (or honey)
- Rinse the glutinous rice 2 to 3 times. Add water to cover the rice. Let the rice soak overnight at room temperature. Drain the rice and mix in 2 tsp of white sugar.
- Cut off the tough ends of the edible stem. Make sure only one end exposes the tubes within. Save the cut piece to use as a lid later.
- Stuff the edible stem with glutinous rice. Use a chopstick to push the rice in the holes. Place the lid back to cover the cut end. Secure with toothpicks to seal.
- In a small pot, add 2 cups of water, ½ cup of white sugar, 2 tbsp brown sugar and the stuffed root vegetable. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir to help dissolve the sugar. Allow this to boil for 1 hour with the lid on. Flip the stuffed root vegetables 2-3 times to ensure the rice cooks evenly inside.
- Turn to lowest heat to simmer for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Cut into evenly thick slices drizzle osmanthus syrup on top.
Easy Digestion Tea
This easy tea is often used as a home remedy to soothe coughs. It also helps with digestion after eating too much oily food.
- 6 slices of the edible stem, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick
- 750 ml water
- 2 slices fresh ginger
- In a large pot, add the water, edible stem and fresh ginger. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to a minimum. Allow to brew for another 20 minutes. Serve warm.