The Chinese have always loved the lotus flower – in their paintings, embroidery, poems and religion. In the minds of the Chinese, the lotus flower is synonymous with all that is clean and pure, a symbol of survival flourishing in a dirty environment. The lotus flower represents creative power and purity amid adverse surroundings – a plant that starts life in the mud, stretches its long neck through the murky waters to greet the world with an exquisite face.The lotus plant is an aquatic perennial member of the Nelumbonaceae family, but its most common generic name is Chinese Arrowroot. It is cultivated for its seeds, flowers, leaves and roots, all of which are edible. At the plant’s maturity it breaks apart and releases the seeds (the true fruits of the plant) through the numerous holes in the flat surface of its spectacular seed pod, and the seeds sink to the bottom to establish the next generation of plants.At the time I took these photos of the lotus, the flower had long gone, being replaced by the seed pod with the seeds clearly visible. Brunyfire was eager to try cooking with the lotus seeds and roots, having already used the leaves – again, my Chinese emporium provided both pods and roots – albeit tinned and dried. The root has a dense, crunchy and starchy texture with minimal flavor, faintly nutty and sweet, similar to that of a water chestnut, and despite them having to be soaked (for about 2 hours) they still retained a crunchy texture. Whilst the tin of boiled lotus seeds were a bit mushy, they still tasted OK, of chick peas actually.
The lotus root is high in dietary fiber and is considered a good food source for energy, as it is high in carbohydrates and low in fat and protein. Cooked lotus roots are said to strengthen the spleen, promote the functional activity of the stomach and promote tissue regeneration.Stir fried beef with lotus and noodles. Finely slice two small beef fillet steaks (semi freeze first to enable easy slicing) and fry in hot oil – put these aside. Fry up a sliced onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and some julienne carrots in a sandpot, with a dash of 5 spice powder then add half a tin of lotus seeds and about 5 lotus roots (pre-soaked and sliced). Add the beef with a dash of soy and sweet chili sauce and a slosh of red wine for good measure. Serve on a bed of cooked noodles.
Lo Mai Gai is a sticky rice based dish wrapped in a lotus leaf parcel and steamed – Brunyfire’s take on this dish is slightly different. Not being a great fan of steamed foods like the ubiquitous dumpling of Yum Cha notoriety, this version of Lo Mai Gai was a really tasty and filling dish.
The following recipe is from China: The Beautiful Cookbook (1986) and is said to have come from Guangzhou and is enough for two people.Pre-soak a couple of lotus leaves, in hot (boiled) water to soften them. Cook up a couple of cups of long grain rice till done but firm – don’t let it get too soggy. Whilst the rice is cooking, soak 4 dried mushrooms to soften for about 20 minutes.
Next, fry up 125 gms of minced prawn meat, 125 smoked Boks bacon, 100 gms minced chicken, 125 gms minced lean pork (minced) and add the chopped up mushrooms. Whip up a couple of eggs, and fry these to make an omelet like mixture, chop this up and gently stir it through the cooked mixture. Then add the following seasoning ingredients: 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of rice wine, half a teaspoon of sesame oil, a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of white pepper.
Fire up the table barbie and place a (pre soaked, preferably overnight) Chinese sand-pot filled with water on top and allow the water to come to the boil……..Add bamboo steamer and place a lotus rollup in each steamer. (Note: on purchasing this steamer at my ever helpful local Chinese Emporium, I was told that the bamboo helped absorb steam during cooking, and in the case of steamed dumplings, helped prevent them from getting soggy with steam condensing on the dumplings themselves). Steam for at least 20 minutes…….……….cut the lotus leaf open in a cross, and fold back the corners to release delicious aromas and tastes.