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Lotus root stir-fry – quick and easy vegetarian dish

If you ask any Chinese family whether they have ever cooked lotus root stir-fry (清炒莲藕) at home, chances are most of them will say yes. 

However, if you are a non-Chinese living outside of Asia, you may not have heard these dishes as it is not the main item in most Chinese restaurants.

Lotus root stir fry is undoubtedly a dish that you should try. The flavor and texture of the lotus root are so unique that hardly any other vegetables can come close to it. It is slightly sweet, earthy, and has a crunchy texture when stir-fry.  Although it is called “root,” the rhizome grows horizontally underwater at the bottom of the lotus plant. 

It comes in connected, cylinder-shaped segments like giant linked sausages. There are either seven of nines holes run through each segment and looks incredibly attractive if you slice it thinly to reveal the holes, which looks like the old-fashioned rotary dial phone.

Lotus root stir fry is undoubtedly a dish that you should try. The flavor and texture of the lotus root are so unique that hardly any other vegetables can come close to it. It is slightly sweet, earthy, and has a crunchy texture when stir-fry.

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How to cook lotus root stir-fry

Here is the detail on how to prepare the lotus root stir-fry. I would suggest you read through this article before jumping to the recipe below, especially if you are first time dealing with lotus root.

1. How to prepare the lotus root for stir-frying

Although lotus root is the rhizome of the lotus plant, not the root, we are so used to call it lotus root that it is immediately understood its meaning.

How to choose the lotus root

The fresh lotus root should have a heavy feeling in your hand. The color is light brown and should not have cracks, soft spots, and blemishes on the skin.  Sometimes it is sold with a few sections linked together, but others may have broken it into separate sections.  It is commonly available in the wet market in Malaysia.  If you are living outside Asia, it is available at most Asian grocery stores. Sometimes it is also sole in the frozen section when it is off-season.

Clean and cut the lotus root

  • To prepare lotus root, peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, cut off both ends, then cut it into round slices, about 2-3 mm crosswise. If you have a large lotus root, half it lengthwise first before slicing it into semicircles.
  • I suggest using a sharp knife to slice it into thin slices, as it not only takes a shorter time to cook but also produces a crunchier texture.
  • Soak the lotus root slices in a bowl of water after slicing, as the color of the exposed lotus root darkens quickly. This situation is similar to cutting an apple, where the exposed part will oxidize and turn color.   Besides that, it is also helpful to add two teaspoons of white vinegar into the water to make it slightly acidic, which further helps prevent them from turning brown.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, then blanch the lotus root for one minute. The purpose of blanching is two-folded. First, The cooked lotus root will not change color. Secondly, it shortens the time required during stir-fry since other ingredients take only a minute to stir-fry.
  • Drain the blanched lotus root slices in a colander and set them aside for later use.

2. Other vegetables required for this recipe

Although you can stir-fry the lotus root alone, it is tastier by adding other vegetables with different flavors and colors. Most of the time, we use crunchy vegetables such as celery, carrot, baby sweet corn, and snow peas. Besides that, lily bulbs, walnuts/peanuts, ginkgo nuts, and wood ear mushrooms are also frequently added.

The list of vegetables varies from one chef to the other and can be different according to what is available to cook. 

Regardless of what to choose, the choice should follow these simple guidelines:

  • to provide different mouthfeels by including vegetables with distinct crunchiness.
  • To improve the overall presentation by using vegetables with various colors and shapes.

Prepare the vegetables

Wood ear mushroom 木耳 is also translated as wood fungus and black fungus. You can purchase this item in most Asian grocery stores. It is sold in dehydrated form, which means you need to soak it before use. It absorbs water and expands to more than double in size when soaking in water after twenty minutes. The shape will change from its dry form to lustrous, shiny, slippery dark brown thick and plum pieces. After it is hydrated, remove the stem, which is hard, then cut into 1-inch pieces of any shape you prefer.

the hydrated wood ear mushrooms
the hydrated wood ear mushrooms

Ginkgo nuts are my favorites. First, you need to crack the shell with a hammer or knife’s blade, peel off the brownish skin and the inner stem. Alternatively, you can look for those peeled ginkgo nuts sold in vacuum packs to save time.

Carrots need slightly longer to cook than other ingredients, and hence I suggest blanching it with the lotus roots pieces. 

Celery and snow peas take only seconds to cook and do not need to blanch in advance. Cut the celery on the bias to thin slices. Snap both ends of the snow peas, then pull away to remove the thin string at the seams. Finally, halve the snow peas diagonally.

Lotus root stir fry is undoubtedly a dish that you should try. The flavor and texture of the lotus root are so unique that hardly any other vegetables can come close to it. It is slightly sweet, earthy, and has a crunchy texture when stir-fry.

3. How to season the lotus root stir-fry

I prefer to season the lotus root stir-fry lightly not to overshadow the vegetables’ original flavor. Therefore, I only use oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, and some cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Just add some salt to adjust the taste before serve if you feel that it is not salty enough.

There is another spicy lotus root stir-fry recipe which includes Szechuan chili bean paste and red chili. I will go for that if I stir-fry only the lotus roots alone without involving other vegetables.

Note: You can substitute oyster sauce with the ‘vegetarian’ oyster sauce made with mushroom extract. Alternatively, replace the oyster with half the amount of light soy sauce plus some sugar.

Other related recipes

Lotus root is also a popular vegetable used in soups or stews. There is a lotus root soup recipe on this blog if you are interested in making soup.  This recipe is based on the time-tested formula prepared with lotus root, pork ribs, and groundnuts.

Bok choy stir fry might be downright simple for some people, especially those who grew up in a typical Cantonese family. However, it is deceptively tricky to recreate this iconic Chinese dish at home to taste like those from the restaurant. Check out the tips in this recipe.

Yield: 3

Lotus root stir-fry - quick and easy vegetarian dish

lotus root stir fry square small

Lotus root stir fry is undoubtedly a dish that you should try. The flavor and texture of the lotus root are so unique that hardly any other vegetables can come close to it. It is slightly sweet, earthy, and has a crunchy texture when stir-fry.  Although it is called “root,” the rhizome grows horizontally underwater at the bottom of the lotus plant. 

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients A

Ingredients B

Ingredients C (seasoning)

Instructions

Preparation

  1. Cut off both ends of the segments of the lotus. Peel off the skin then cut them crosswise into thin slices, preferably about 2mm thick.
  2. Soak the slices in water with 2 tsp of white vinegar for ten minutes.
  3. Blanch the lotus root in boiling water for two minutes, remove, and drain it in a colander.
  4. Cut the carrots into slices and blanch in water for 2 minutes. Drained. (You can do it with the lotus root simultaneously).
  5. Snap off both ends of the snow peas, then pull away from the snow peas to remove the fibrous strings. Next, cut the pea in half.
  6. Soak the wood ear fungus in water for about 20 minutes until fully dehydrated. Remove the hard stem, then cut it into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Cut the baby corns into 2-3 sections and celery into thin slices.

Cooking

  1. Heat the oil in a pan.
  2. Stir fry the ginger until aromatic.
  3. Add the hydrated wood ear mushrooms and stir fry for one minute.
  4. Add the blanched lotus root, carrot, and the rest of the vegetables. Stir fry over high heat for half a minute.
  5. Add the seasonings (ingredients C) and stir fry for another half a minute. Dish out and serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 836Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 815mgCarbohydrates: 156gFiber: 30gSugar: 37gProtein: 37g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 7/22/2021

KP Kwan

Friday 23rd of July 2021

Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am happy to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

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