The lotus is a versatile as well as beautiful plant. The Chinese eat its seeds and its roots, wrap seasonal pastries in its leaves, and celebrate its flowers as the Buddhist symbol of beauty and purity because they bloom so gloriously in the most uninviting environments. Fresh lotus root, which is sold by the pound in most Chinese markets, looks like a potato. It is approximately the size and shape of a potato and even has a light brown, potato-like skin. Inside, however, the crisp white meat is laced with air holes, which provide the buoyancy needed to keep the plant afloat and produce a lovely starlike pattern when the lotus root is sliced crosswise.
Put the ground pork in a bowl and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg whites to it. Mix well.
Peel the ginger, then mince it very fine, until it reaches the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add to the pork.
Clean the scallions, then chop, both the white part and one-third of the green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head. Add the chopped scallions to the pork.
Cut the outer skin off the lotus root, then chop it into little pieces, about the size of grains of uncooked rice. You should get approximately 1 cup of chopped lotus root. Add it to the pork.
Now add the cornstarch, salt, ground roasted Szechwan peppercorns, and water to the pork mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix the pork and other ingredients very thoroughly, giving it about 50 strokes to get a smooth, well-blended mixture.
When the oil is ready, drop the little meatballs into it and let them cook, turning them gently, until they are a deep golden brown all over. This should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the hot oil to a paper towel to drain before serving.
Fill your wok or whatever pan you normally use for deep-fat frying with about 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil over a moderate flame until it is hot enough for frying. This may take 5 or 10 minutes; the oil should be practically smoking.
Using a wet teaspoon, form the meat mixture into little balls about the size of a walnut. (Keep a dish of water handy, so your teaspoon stays wet.)
When the oil is ready, drop the little meatballs into it and let them cook, turning them gently, until they are a deep golden brown all over. This should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove the meatballs from the hot oil to a paper towel to drain before serving.
© 1976 Ellen Schrecker. All rights reserved.