I’m addicted to this Thai lotus shoot salad (yum lai bua) and have been cooking the stuff weekly for God knows how long. Calling it delicious is an understatement. This is a dish that anyone who's a fan of crunchy vegetables will enjoy.
As a person who loves cooking, I find lotus very fascinating because you can eat almost every part of it - the root, the shoot, the stem, the petal, the seed, you name it. Not to mention we still use the leaf to package food here in Asia.
Needless to say my favorite part to eat is the shoot. But even then I had to spend a good amount of time reading about it before writing this post. I didn’t even know what it’s called in English. A lot of people seem to call it ‘lotus stem’ but here's what I found...
LOTUS SHOOTS & LOTUS STEMS IN THAI CUISINE
a) There are two types of lotus that are eaten in Thailand: ‘bua sai’ and ‘bua luang’ (bua means lotus in Thai, by the way)
b) The stem, or what we call ‘sai bua’ in Thai is the part attached to the flower, whereas the shoot or ‘lai bua’ is underwater and will develop into a new plant. I know -- lai bua and sai bua -- I swear they confuse some of us too!
c) We eat the stem of bua sai; the stem of bua luang is too tough.
d) Bua luang propagates by shoots but bua sai doesn’t. So the shoots that we eat are bua luang shoots.
HOW TO PREPARE LOTUS SHOOTS FOR THAI LOTUS SHOOT SALAD
Lotus shoots are long strings that come rolled up in bags and here's what you need to do before you eat them
1. Cut them into 4 cm pieces.
2. When you cut the shoots, you'll notice some white fibers coming out of the shoots. These are not good and you want to remove them. To do this, fill a large container with water and throw the lotus shoot pieces in. Then, use a chopstick to swirl in the water. The fibers will come off on the chopstick and you can discard them from there. Do this step as many times as you need.
3. Rinse through the little wholes in each piece. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's totally worth it! The reason why you have to do this is because sometimes there's mud inside lotus shoots. If running water can't remove the mud, cut the piece open with a knife and rinse again.
4. Lotus shoots can be eaten raw but I prefer to blanch them in gently boiling water for about 15 seconds for hygienic reasons. Remember, gently boiling only or your shoots will end up not as crunchy as they should be! Then, you want to transfer the shoots with a slotted spoon to room-temperature water to stop them from cooking. Note that you can add about half a tablespoon of salt to this water to prevent the lotus shoots from browning. While the shoots are cooling, you can prepare your dressing and mix with the shoots once they have cooled.
I hope you learned a thing or two from this post. I'm pretty sure a few other Asian countries eat lotus shoots too, but I can't seem to pin them down, except for Vietnam. If you've seen or eaten them elsewhere, don't forget to let me know in the comments!
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Thai Lotus Shoot Salad Recipe
- 200 grams lotus shoots
- 1 Roma tomato quartered and cut in half
- ⅓ cup sliced cucumber
- ⅓ cup roasted cashews
- ½ cup crispy pork or any protein you want
- 5 cloves garlic
- 10 red Thai chilis
- 4½ tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1½ tablespoons sugar
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- While the water is heating, take your lotus shoots and cut them into 4 cm pieces.
- Fill a large container with water, throw the lotus shoots in. Then, use a chopstick to swirl in the water to remove the unwanted fibres. The fibres will come off on the chopstick and you can discard them. Repeat this step until you can no longer see the fibers.
- Rinse through the wholes in every piece of the lotus shoots. If you can still see mud inside the them, cut them open and rinse again.
- Once your water is boiling, turn the stove to a low simmer and blanch the shoots for about 15 seconds.
- Transfer the shoots to room-temperature water with a slotted spoon to stop them from cooking. You can add ½ teaspoon of salt to this water to prevent the shoots from browning.
- While the shoots are cooling, make your salad dressing. Coarsely pound the garlic and chilis in a mortar. Add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and pound until well mixed, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Taste-test the dressing and adjust as needed.
- Once the shoots have cooled, strain and place them in a salad bowl.
- Add every other ingredient and the dressing to the bowl and toss.
- Transfer the salad to a serving dish and enjoy.
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