Lotus Root

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Lotus root is the mud-dwelling rhizome of Nelumbo nucifera, a water lily native to Asia that has North American and Egyptian relatives. The lily is an important image in Buddhism and other systems of thought—a stalk rising from the mire to bear a beautiful flower over its floating leaves—so lotus root can carry extraculinary connotations. The rhizome contains large void spaces, so cross-sectional slices have a characteristic lacy pattern. It is crisp and remains so after cooking, for the same reason that water chestnuts do. It has a mild aroma and slight astringency, and discolors rapidly when cut due to phenolic compounds. Lotus root is cooked in many different ways, after an initial peeling (and blanching in the case of salads), from rapid stir-frying to braising and candying. Its modest store of starch is also extracted.