I recently ate out at OKAN, a specialist okonomiyaki restaurant on London's Southbank. My co-diner ordered this dish - Freid Soy Lotus Root - which we both enjoyed. I think of this as a perfect "o-tsumami" dish (which basically translates as means a "snack" or "nibble" in Japanese) that pairs perfectly with a glass of chilled lager. Of course, it also works well as a starter or side dish to a main course too.
Just the name "lotus" conjures up all sorts of exotic and mysterious connotations in the West but in Asia, it is very much an everyday food, highly regarded for its copious amounts of vitamins and minerals. Lotus root really is a bit of a superfood - it provides you with part of your daily Vitamin B, C, iron copper and zinc plus lots of dietary fibre. Lotus root is also fat and cholesterol free so all-in-all, it's really is a great thing to eat. You can but lotus root online or, if you live near to a Chinese or asian store, they will almost certainly stock it. Lotus root is available both in its fresh form or frozen. I used a fresh root for this recipe - once you have reached the stage where you have soaked the slices of lotus root in vinagered water for 10 minutes, you can pop any slices you don't need to use into a bag and refreeze - just pat them dry first.
You can eat lotus root boiled, baked or deep fried as chips (crisps, if you are a UK reader) but the most popular way to prepare it is to stir fry. Stir frying lotus root opens up and softens the fibres but don't fry for too long - you want to retain the lovely cruncy texture of the root. Once it has been stir fried for a few minutes, the flesh of a lotus root will readily absorb any flavours you throw into the pan. Like the dish I ate at OKAN, the flavours in this recipe are primarily soy sauce and mirin with a dash of chilli flakes. OKAN use saffron in their dish but I dispensed with this as I think the subtle saffron flavour gets buried under the more robust soy and mirin and the chilli. When I stir fry lotus root, I usually use sesame oil to fry. Sesame oil gets hot very quickly and imparts a lovely, nutty flavour to the lotus root. I fry the lotus root until the skin begins to wrinkle and loses its sheen - that means it is almost done and ready for flavouring with the soy and mirin.
At this point, turn the heat off and stir in the flavouring if you want a sweeter taste. Leave the heat on a minute or so longer and the soy sauce will impart an almost smokey flavour to the lotus root - perfect for that cold lager. My garnishes for this dish are white sesame and a little watercress.
If this has got you in a mood to try this dish, you can find the Youtube tutorial by clicking Pan fried Lotus Root or by scrolling to the bottom of the page. You can find the written recipe just below.
Happy cooking! Kurumi XXXX.
(serves 2 as a side dish)
240g / 8.5 oz fresh lotus root
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1.5 tbsp mirin or 2 tsp honey
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
a dash of chilli flakes (or more according to your preference)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
some water cress
carefully peel the lotus root. you may need to use a knife to remove some of the skin
halve the root and cut into 5 mm / 0.2 inch slices.
soak the slices in a bowl of water with the white vinegar for at least 10 mins. drain well and pat dry with a kitchen paper for the crispest result
heat the sesame oil in a frying pan. add the lotus root and fry for about 5-6 mins over medium / high heat. keep turning over the lotus root slices until all the slices are lightly browned
now, add the mirin, soy sauce, a dash of chilli flakes and stir everything together well
finally, add the sesame seeds and stir once more
I garnished this dish with a little water cress