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You too can cook washoku / Vegetarian-friendly lotus root dish

Courtesy of Mari Nameshida

By Mari Nameshida/Special to The Japan News Lotus root is one of my favorite ingredients. It’s very versatile and can be used for various dishes depending on how you cook it.

I often make renkon mochi or lotus root dumplings at gatherings. You can make it easily, by grating lotus root, mixing flour with it, shaping it into round pieces and by frying or steaming it.

Lotus root is often served roasted or stir-fried, sliced into thin pieces that have a crunchy texture. But these dumplings have a sticky and fluffy texture like mochi. Mixing grated and diced lotus root gives the dumplings a crunchy and sticky texture.

Apart from salt or a bit of soy sauce, I use ginger to add flavor to the dumplings. The strong flavor of the ginger means no other seasonings are needed, but you could also try adding some dashi broth and grated daikon to the dish if available.

Lotus root is often used in Asian cuisine. It can be found at Asian grocery stores in the United States, where I live, but it’s not so popular here. I’m often asked, “what is this vegetable filled with holes?”

Lotus root is a vitamin-rich vegetable, high in fiber, mucin and potassium.

When you buy lotus root, choose hard, light-brown ones. Avoid ones that have soft spots or blemishes. I always keep it in the fridge after wrapping it with wet newspaper, and store it in a plastic bag.

To keep the white color of the lotus root, before cooking, peel and cut the vegetable, and soak it for 5-10 minutes in vinegar water.

If you have leftover lotus root after cooking the dumplings, try making chips. Thinly slice lotus root, deep-fry the slices without any coating and sprinkle salt on them. Fry the slices until crispy. They taste like potato chips with an earthy flavor.

Japanese people often eat lotus root on New Year’s Day, because it is said to represent a happy future without obstacles.

Do you know why? Lotus root has many holes, through which you can see the other side clearly, so it symbolizes a clear vision of the future.

These holes come in handy when making stuffed lotus root. Fill the holes with minced meat and stir fry to make a hearty dish that’s very easy to make and tastes great too.

Recipe for renkon mochi dumplings

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

250 grams lotus root

2 tbsp flour

Egg white from 1 egg

10 grams ginger

5 scallions

Potato starch

Vegetable oil

Salt

Pepper

Directions:

1. Peel the lotus root. Grate 150 grams into a bowl. Cut the remaining root into 8-millimeter cubes.

2. Put the grated lotus root, cubed lotus root, flour, egg white and salt in a bowl, and mix well. If it is too runny to mold into balls, add more flour.

3. Heat the oil to 160 C.

4. Shape the mixture into round pieces. Thinly coat with potato starch, and deep-fry until golden brown.

5. Serve the fried dumplings on a plate with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped scallions.

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