8 Lotus Root Soup Recipes

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Many variations of the lotus root soup attest to its popularity in Singapore. Some people swear by peanuts, dried cuttlefish, and dried tangerine peel.

What is lotus root?

Photo by Brian Yap

The lotus root is the root portion of the lotus plant. The plant grows in ponds with the flowers, stems and leaves above the water and the root below the water.

Every part of the plant can be used in cooking, either as ingredients or as cooking tools. The flowers, stamens, seeds, leaves and of course the roots or more commonly known as rhizomes.

The root is light grey brownish in color. When cut in cross-section, it looks like wheels or some say snowflakes.

This starchy rhizome appears frequently in Chinese food, especially vegetarian dishes. It not only adds bulk but also helps balance the oiliness and richness of fatty cuts. It is crunchy even after long hours of cooking and does not have a strong flavour.

How to select, clean and prepare lotus root

The lotus flower. Photo by Toshiyuki Imai

The lotus plant is in full bloom in summer. The roots are typically harvested from autumn to winter.

The fresh root is harvested from ponds, so they are usually covered in mud. That's one of the ways we tell the fresh ones from the not so fresh ones. Wash and scrub thoroughly to remove the mud.

Besides muddy ones, choose those that are fairly straight and each section is regularly shaped. There shouldn't be any bruising or cuts. Avoid those that look dry or too white.

Grandma will usually peel the outer skin with a peeler before slicing them cross-section. I personally don't think peeling is necessary. A good scrub is a must though.

If you are not going to use it immediately, soak in water with lemon juice or rice vinegar to prevent discoloration after peeling and cutting.

Storage tips

Uncut and unwashed roots can be wrapped in newspaper and cling wrap before placing in the refrigerator. Sliced lotus root should be wrapped in cling wrap before placing in the refrigerator. Consume within 2 days.

Lotus root are usually simmered soups and do well in slow cookers.

I thought I'll start off by featuring a very basic one with only a handful of red dates to help sweeten the soup.

1. Basic lotus root soup

A simple basic lotus root soup. Photo by Phoebe Lim

This soup is traditionally cooked using pork ribs but if you don't like it, go ahead and substitute. It works well with chicken. If you are a vegetarian, see the recipe below.

Ingredients

  • 600g lotus root
  • 300g pork ribs
  • 5 red dates
  • 1500ml water
  • Salt to taste

Directions for the stove top

  1. Wash and clean the lotus root of any mud and dirt. Skin it if you want. If not, scrub thoroughly
  2. Cut the roots cross-wise so that they look like wheels
  3. Keep the roots immersed in water and a tablespoon of vinegar to prevent them from turning black
  4. Parboil the pork ribs for about 2 minutes
  5. Wash the pork ribs to remove any blood and trim off excess fat
  6. Combine the water, pork ribs, lotus root and red dates in a soup pot and bring to a boil
  7. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours
  8. Salt to taste before serving

Directions for the slow cooker

  1. Follow directions from 1 to 5
  2. Assemble pork ribs and lotus root in the slow cooker and add hot but not boiling water. Put on low and cook for 2 to 3 hours
  3. There is less evaporation taking place for the slow cooker version. You will want to adjust the amount of water required. The actual amount depends on the size of your slow cooker. It should be enough to cover all the ingredients completely but not more than 80% full

The next 2 recipes have dried squid which makes the flavour of the soup more nuanced. It is also one of those ingredients that some people swear must be in a lotus root soup. 

2. Lotus root, peanut and red date soup

Ingredients

  • 300g lotus root, washed and peeled
  • 1 small (about 75g) dried squid, rinsed and cleaned
  • 6 cups chicken and pork bone stock
  • 100g raw peanuts, skins removed
  • 8-10 chinese dried red dates, piths removed
  • 1.5 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Slice the lotus root into thick slices
  2. Slice or trim the dried squid into small square pieces
  3. Bring the stock with all ingredients to the boil in a deep pot
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1.5 hours

3. Lotus root, dried squid and red date soup

This is a popular family soup that helps reduce heatiness.

Ingredients

8 cups chicken stock

300g lotus root, well scrubbed and left whole

20g dried squid, cut into small squares

15 red dates, cored

10g goji berries

Directions

  1. Place the chicken stock, lotus root, dried squid and red dates in a soup pot and bring to the boil, Add the goji berries
  2. Reduce heat to very low and simmer for 1.5 hour
  3. Slice the lotus root before serving

Old cucumber 老黄瓜 (lao huang gua) or a combination of carrot and green radish can replace lotus root.

4. Vegetarian lotus root soup recipe

Ingredients

  • 40g raisins
  • 450g lotus root
  • 75g fresh lotus seeds
  • 40g dried lily bulbs
  • 38g euryale seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1.5 litre of vegetable soup stock

Directions

  1. Wash and slice the lotus root
  2. Wash the lotus seeds, lily bulbs and euryale seeds
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil
  4. Add the raisins, lotus root, lotus seeds, lily bulbs, euryale seeds
  5. Bring back to a boil then lower heat to a simmer
  6. Simmer for about 2 hours
  7. Season with salt before serving

5. Miso soup recipe with lotus root, leek and tofu

This hearty vegetarian soup recipe uses red miso. The combination of leek, lotus root slices, mushrooms and silken tofu made it a great winter soup. Imagine digging into this big pot of steamy goodness with the winter winds howling outside.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dashi broth
  • 1 large leek thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 16 thin slices lotus root
  • 1/4 pound tofu
  • 2-3 tbsp red miso
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Bring the dashi broth to a boil in a pot
  2. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes
  3. Drain, remove the stems and slice thinly
  4. Slice the leek and carrot into thin slices
  5. Add the leek, carrot, mushrooms and lotus root slices to the broth and simmer for about 3 minutes
  6. Cut the tofu into small bite-sized cubes
  7. Add the tofu to the simmering broth
  8. Dissolve the miso paste using a few spoonful of the broth
  9. Add the miso liquid to the broth
  10. Remove from heat and serve with the green onions as garnish

Lotus root in congee

Another soupy way of using lotus root is in rice porridge

Rice congee is a good base for a lot of ingredients and lotus root is one of these ingredients. I've got 2 simple recipes here that I hope you will try.

6. Lotus root and goji congee

The goji berries are sweet and the lotus root is crunchy. A nice contrast. It is a vegetarian congee, no meat in it.

It is also a very nice gentle nourishing dish for the elderly. Make sure the lotus root is cooked till it is very soft so that it is not too hard on the teeth and gums. Do that by parboiling before adding to congee.

Ingredients

  • 200g lotus root
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Wash and soak the goji berries till soft
  2. Wash and peel the lotus root
  3. Cut the lotus root into thin slices (cross-section)
  4. Wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes
  5. Place the rice in a pot and add the water
  6. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer
  7. When the porridge is done, add the lotus root and cook till soft
  8. Add the goji berries and salt

7. Lotus root and pork porridge

Ingredients

  • 225g fresh lotus root
  • 150g lean pork
  • 10 goji berries
  • 12 cups of water
  • 1 cup of rice
  • Pinch of cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of vinegar

Directions

  1. Wash and peel the lotus root. Slice cross section and soak in cold water with a little vinegar
  2. Clean the pork, slice thinly and coat sparingly with cornstarch
  3. Bring the water to a boil and add the rice
  4. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes
  5. Add the lotus root and cook for 30 minutes
  6. Add the pork, goji berries and salt
  7. Cook for a further 10 minutes

Other ways to enjoy lotus root

This asian vegetable can also be used raw in salads, stir fries, deep fried as tempura or chips.

To make lotus root chips, peel and slice them thinly. You can do so by hand although I think a mandoline is much better for consistent slicing especially if you aren't that great with a knife. Pat dry with kitchen towel and deep fry. A much healthier munchies than potato chips.

The root can also be juiced raw together with radish to make a vegetable juice mix that help to alleviate internal bleeding in the stomach.

I would like to end off with a dessert recipe.

8. Lotus root dessert with red beans and honey dates

I saw this lotus root soup recipe in the October 2007 issue of Mother & Baby. It is listed as appropriate for pregnant ladies.

Red beans are usually used in sweet soups and desserts but here it is paired with lotus root to make a light savory soup.

The honey dates provides an earthy sweetness without overpowering the flavour of the chicken stock. The Cantonese loves to add honey dates to their soups.

It is supposed to serve 6, so increase or decrease ingredients accordingly. I added additional notes in brackets.

Ingredients

  • 1 lotus root with 2 or 3 sections
  • 200g red beans (or adzuki beans)
  • 4 honey dates
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Wash and soak the red beans overnight. Drain before use
  2. Clean lotus root and rinse well, slice and set aside (soak in water with a splash of vinegar to keep it from browning)
  3. Bring chicken stock to a boil, add the red beans and cooke at high heat for 15 minutes
  4. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour
  5. Add lotus root and honey dates. Continue to simmer for 2 hours
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving

Happy Souping, Phoebe