This week, Courtney cooks up one of my favorite vegetables in Japan!
My first extended stay in Japan was when we moved to Iwakuni. I had gained some foodie education in Spain and was excited to explore the Japanese food culture in depth. Iwakuni was known for its renkon, or lotus root. In fact we live beside lotus fields during our time there.
Lotus fields are demanding. The farmers who tended them spent most of their time bent over and wading through thick mud. They would line the lotus up in perfect rows and then wait. The summer would arrive with these long thick stalks reaching for the sun until one day when the lotus flower would begin to bloom. I would walk my dog in the early morning to capture these beautiful blooms. The flowers and stalks would fade and soon the farmers would again be in the fields, digging to find the lotus roots for the local markets.
Being so close to the whole evolution from seed to flower to root made me intrigued so I began trying any lotus root recipe I could find! I tried everything from sweet to savory. If I saw a mention of lotus in a recipe, I tried it. Needless to say, I ate plenty of lotus root while living in Japan. Overall, most recipes were delicious, even some that made me stop and question, like lotus root crème brulee (amazing actually) and lotus root ice cream (salty and sweet).
Lotus root are rich in nutrients and fiber. The Japanese consider it a lucky vegetable because you can see through the holes into the future, making it a popular New Years dish. It can be used in soups, stir-fries, braised and fried. It’s a very forgiving ingredient in these dishes because it’s hard to overcook.
This recipe is one of my favorite! My friends and I took a class at Buddha Bellies Cooking School in Tokyo to learn numerous lotus root recipes. We were so excited to learn how to make tsukune renkon and it did not disappoint.
From Buddha Bellies Cooking Class in Tokyo.
2 medium size lotus roots, cut into 5mm slices, soak in vinegar-water
300 g minced chicken
6 pieces oba (Japanese basil) or shiro
½ green onion-white part is best, chopped
1 thumb-size chunk of ginger
1 TBSP sake
Salt, as desired
2 TBSP soy sauce
3 TBSP mirin
2 TBSP sake
1. Mix all sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients of tsukune until well mixed.
3. Place tsukune mixture on one side of the lotus root and gently push into holes. Create a rounded side of tsukune mixture on that side (other side you can see holes with mixture).
4. Place tsukune side down of lotus root down in a low-to-medium heat pan with sesame oil. Cook for 5 minutes and then turn to the lotus root side for an additional 4 minutes. Cover during the second 4 minutes so the lotus root can steam slightly.
5. Add the sauce to the pan. Continuously spoon the mixture over the lotus root patties. Turn patties and continue to spoon mixture over until sauce is carmelized.
Renkon chips from JustOne Cookbook
These chips are addicting! They are a great addition to an Asian-themed dinner party or a lazy evening watching movies.
Renkon no Sunomono from La Fuji Mama
Deliciously crisp side to your main course or served up in a bento. Swap the lemon for yuzu and it’s divine!
Kinpira Renkon from Fiona’s Japanese Cooking
Traditional bento dish that I enjoyed plenty from the local convenience stores!
Lacy Pickled Lotus Root from Taste with the Eyes
I made this a few years back and everyone who tried it raved about it!