Uncommon Root

Kelly Hailstone/Heavy Table
Kelly Hailstone/Heavy Table

There’s much to like about the lotus root. Like a partially rehabbed bungalow, it’s not much to look at on the outside, but slice it open and be dazzled. Arranged in an odd strand of bulbs the color of Yukon Gold potatoes but without the sheen, the lotus root, when sliced, reveals a dial-phone-like latticework, lovely in its unusualness. The outer layer is typically removed using a vegetable peeler, and the lightly crunchy and sweet meat can be prepared in myriad ways: stir fried, deep fried, baked, steamed, boiled, sliced up and tossed into salads, dropped into soups and stews, or nibbled raw as sliced chips.

A frequent guest at Asian tables, in whose waters this root vegetable is native, lotus roots are loaded with vitamin C and also contain decent amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber. Look for lotus roots at Asian markets, like United Noodles (2015 E. 24th St., Minneapolis). When selecting, buy those that are firm to the touch and are devoid of soft spots or bruising. They will keep in your refrigerator for up to three weeks.

If you’ve never cooked with lotus root, here’s a simple recipe to get you started. The natural, delicate pattern of these deep-fried beauties will up the ante at your next dinner party or low-key gathering. Waffle fries, be gone!

Lotus Root Chipshplotusroot1
Makes two generous portions

12-18 inches lotus root (about 3-4 bulbs)
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
Coarse salt

Heat one inch oil to 300 degrees in a frying pan. While oil is coming up to temperature, slice rough ends off bulbs and peel off skin with a vegetable peeler. Using a food processor, mandoline, or sharp knife, thinly slice the root.

Slide sliced roots into hot oil. The chips may turn a pale pink after 30 seconds. Let them fry another 30-90 seconds, depending on how crunchy you prefer them. (I sliced some a bit thicker – about ΒΌ inch – than my food processor would allow, for a heartier, still delicious, alternative.)

Remove the chips from the pan with a slotted spoon, drain on a plate lined with a couple paper towels, and sprinkle generously with salt (and pepper if you’d like) while still warm. Serve plain or with hummus, guacamole, or lemon mayonnaise.