Kung Pao Lotus Root

February:Asian/Chinese Lunar New Year

When we were visiting China, our tour group was served different lotus root dishes. Even though Islander grew up around Asians and a large Chinese community in Hawaii, she had never tried lotus root until we travelled to China. When we returned to the states, she went to find lotus root at the Asian grocery store so she could try cooking it at home and expand our Chinese recipe list on our blog.

Lotus root is considered a vegetable with a long, tubular stalk-stem (like large potato-like sausage links) growing below the water into the ground and shooting at the surface into a beautiful flower. It has a neutral taste that takes on the flavors of other ingredients. We also like its unique “crisp” bite and smooth texture. Chinese and Eastern medics believe lotus root is a cooling food that helps the body restore balance.

As Highlander loves kung pao chicken, we made a meatless version with lotus root and it was delicious for our Chinese new year dinner (one year, it fell on Ash Wednesday so we abstained from kung pao meat). Kung pao lotus root is a differently delicious dish to start off the lunar new year! Kung hee fat choy!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pounds lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 6 pieces dried chili pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, skinless
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • oil for frying

Directions

Separate, wash and peel the lotus root like a potato. Slice half the lotus root into 1/3 inch thick rounds and dice the rest. Set aside to make the sauce.

In a small cup or bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

Crush the garlic, peel and slice the ginger and chop the green onions. In a small cup, make a slurry with the cornstarch and water.

Heat a little oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the lotus root slices and cubes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and dry on paper towels. In the same pan, sauté the garlic, ginger, green onions and peppers. Remove from the pan onto a small plate.

Toast the peanuts by sautéing them in the same pan for a minute or two. Return the lotus root and spiced vegetable mixture into the pan. Pour the soy sauce mixture and slurry and mix well until sauce is thickened. Dish out on platter, garnish with extra green onion slices (optional) and serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • Learn more about the nutritional value of lotus root here.
  • Search our blog for other Chinese and Asian recipes to make for the lunar new year.

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

September: National Chicken Month

Highlander frequently orders kung pao chicken whenever we eat at a Chinese restaurant. But he finds that some are chintzy on the chicken and the nuts are almost non-existent. He prefers this classic Szechuan dish to be meaty, nutty, spicy and saucy instead of  the “very veggie-fied” versions serve at some of the Chinese restaurants. Highlander also likes the cashew chicken stir-fry from Islander’s Daddy, so based on his recipe she now cooks kung pao chicken for her hubby with his request for more substantial ingredients in mind. Below is our basic home-style kung pao chicken recipe in observance of National Chicken Month.

Recipe

(Inspired by Daddy)

For the chicken marinade

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sherry or Shaoxing wine
  • ½ teaspoon oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • vegetable or hot chili oil

Directions

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, sherry, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Mix in the corn starch until smooth. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30 minutes. Heat a little oil in a wok or skillet. Brown the chicken and cook ¾ way through. Set aside and keep warm. Prepare the sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken

For the sauce

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch

For the stir-fry

  • 6-8 dried chili peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks green onions, diced to ¼ inch
  • ½ cup peanuts, roasted and unsalted
  • vegetable or hot chili oil

Directions

In the same wok or skillet, add a little vegetable oil, if necessary, and stir-fry the dried chili peppers, minced garlic and ¾ of the green onions for a minute.

Kung Pao Chicken

Add the chicken and heat until fully cooked. Pour in the sauce and stir until thickened. Mix in the nuts. Sprinkle the remaining green onions on top. Transfer to a platter and serve hot with rice.

Kung Pao Chicken

Notes

  • Traditionally, Szechuan peppercorns are stir-fried into the dish to add a distinctive aroma and authentic spicy flavor to the kung pao chicken. This may be hard to find in American markets because of a nearly 40-year import ban on the peppers. To add more heat to this recipe, use hot chili oil instead of the peppercorns to saute the chicken and other ingredients.
  • If you like nuts in Chinese stir-fry dishes, try our cashew chicken recipe posted on November 22 (National Cashew Day).