Spiced Lotus Root Chips
SPICED LOTUS ROOT CHIPS MAKES ABOUT 5 CUPS
Lotus roots, a common vegetable in Chinese cooking, can be stir-fried, boiled, braised, or added to soups (think of them as a potato substitute), and they’re packed with vitamin C and potassium to boot. The lotus plant also carries much spiritual symbolism: for Buddhists, the lotus flower, which oats above muddy waters, represents purity and freedom from attachment and desire. (As such, deities of Asian religions are often depicted as seated on a lotus blossom.) Here I turn the roots into an enlightened chip, which is my favorite way to eat this gorgeous vegetable.
Chinese five-spice powder is available at many groceries, but it is easy to make at home.
FOR THE FIVE-SPICE POWDER:
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon whole Sichuanese peppercorns
2½ teaspoons fennel seeds
6 whole cloves
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
FOR THE LOTUS ROOT CHIPS:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound fresh lotus root (about 1 large root)
1 teaspoon salt Vegetable oil, for frying
MAKE THE FIVE-SPICE POWDER: Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat. Add the star anise, peppercorns, fennel seeds, cloves, and cinnamon stick and toast for 2 to 3 minutes, until you smell the fragrance of the spices. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly. Then grind the spices with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, until the mixture has the texture of coarsely ground peppercorns. (This will make about ¼ cup of five-spice powder; reserve the extra in a small jar in your pantry for up to 6 months.)
MAKE THE LOTUS ROOT CHIPS: Fill a medium bowl with cool water and stir the lemon juice into it. Peel the lotus root with a vegetable peeler, and then cut it into ⅛-inch-thick rounds. (A mandoline comes in quite handy for this.) Soak the slices in the lemon water for about 15 minutes. Then drain and pat dry. Mix the salt with 1 teaspoon of the spice powder in a small bowl.
Pour the vegetable oil into a medium pot to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil until it reaches 325°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Using a slotted spoon, lower the lotus chips into the frying oil, in small batches, until golden, about 1 minute. As they are cooked, transfer the chips to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. While each batch is still hot, sprinkle it with some of the five-spice salt. Eat right away or store in an airtight jar for up to a week.