As someone who is a self-diagnosed trypophobic, it’s a little strange that I love lotus root as much as I do. Not only are they cool-looking, but the crunchy texture is unlike anything else. The following is an easy recipe mom uses for a quick veggie side dish. It takes 15 minutes to make and is a great textural add to any family meal.
1 lotus root
1 red chili pepper
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
1 tsp neutral cooking oil
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Peel lotus and cut into thin slices.
Cut chili pepper into thin slices.
Rinse lotus slices in water to remove starch
Heat cooking oil in wok and roast the peppercorn until browned. Remove the peppercorns from the oil and discard.
Add chili, stir for a minute. Then add lotus, soy sauce, sugar, salt. Stir fry for about 5 minutes
Drizzle vinegar, mix, stir briefly, then serve hot.
On our recent Taiwan road trip, we discovered the custard apple, a fruit commonly found in Taitung, Taiwan. As we were driving through the countryside, dozens of roadside stands were selling these bizarre-looking fruits. Of course, we had to pull over to try it out.
First thing to note is that two types of custard apples are commonly found in Taiwan: the big custard apple and the pineapple custard apple. They taste similar but look different on the outside and have different consistency and structure on the inside.
The second thing to note is that these fruits have a very narrow timeframe in which they should be eaten. It’s like an avocado – you wait, and wait, and wait for it to ripen… and when it does, you have to eat it almost right away before it goes bad. We bought a case of six custard apples that were still quite firm (see above) and were told we couldn’t eat them for 3 more days. On the third day…
Both types have ginormous seeds that need to be spit out. Luckily, they separate from the fruit quite easily so it’s not too hard to eat around them, but boy are there a lot of them.
Here’s how I’d describe the taste – it’s like a mango meets pear meets papaya. The consistency ranges from custard to ripe mango. Consistency-wise it’s also been compared to a durian but it smells and tastes much better. I really loved the taste of it but the rest of the fam was neutral to slightly positive on it. Regardless, it’s a must-try when you’re visiting the Taitung region of Taiwan!
I first encountered this vegetable as a side dish at a casual bbq restaurant in Zhubei. We were looking for a bit o’ greens to go with our otherwise quite meat-heavy meal, and this ended up being so delicious, we got a second round.
It is so flavorful, with a bit of crunch, and not fibrous at all (so you’re not chewing forever and ever). After falling in love with it, we ordered it as a side dish every chance we got. In most cases, the preparation involved garlic, ginger, and mushrooms, though I think this veggie could be good just about any way you prepare it.
On our most recent trip, we went to the traditional market and saw water lotus at our favorite vegetable stand. Here it is coiled up in its packaging at the market. Look at how long it is once you unfurl it!
Dad ended up preparing this with mushrooms and a bit of pork:
What I’ve learned about water lotus since:
The vegetable is actually the stem of an aquatic plant that is native to tropical Asia. Most of the plant grows under water which is why it’s so succulent!
It goes by several names including crested floating heart (because of the way the plant leaves float on the water’s surface) and white water snowflake because of the little white flowers that bloom.
The latin name is Nymphoides hydrophylla.
It’s associated with Meinong, a township in southern Taiwan close to Kaohsiung.
It’s almost impossible to find this vegetable in the States (typical of a lot of Taiwan’s best produce)