Lotus root, known as renkon in Japanese, is the underwater rhizome of the aquatic lotus plant. Slice one open sideways and you’ll find a bunch of holes. These are actually air chambers to store oxygen transferred from the air canals in the plant’s stalk. This oxygen helps the cells of the lotus plant breathe, so it can continue to grow, even underwater. Science aside, it’s also really pretty when sliced!
The batter is a basic tempura batter, and needs to be made with ice water. Mix it with chopsticks for only a few seconds – it should still have lumps! If not, it will end up chewy instead of crisp.
This Japanese recipe calls for katakuriko (potato starch), but if you don’t have any on hand, try with corn starch. For the meat filling we used ground pork, but ground chicken could also work.
Deep-fried Lotus Root Sandwiches
- 300 g lotus root
- 300 g ground pork
- 10 cm naganegi (welsh onion)
- 1 small knob ginger
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar (for the vinegar water)
- water enough to cover the lotus root slices (for the vinegar water)
- flour for coating (as a binding agent)
- soy sauce for serving
- karashi for serving
- 1 tbsp sake (A)
- 1 tsp soy sauce (A)
- potato starch (A)
- 100 mL flour (B)
- 100 mL ice water (B)
- Cut the lotus root into 16 slices, about 5mm thick. Soak them in a bowl of vinegar water for 10 minutes to prevent them from discolouring, then drain.Mince the naganegi.Grate the ginger and squeeze the pulp to extract 1/2 teaspoon of juice.
- Put the ground pork in a large bowl and add the minced naganegi and ginger juice. Add (A) and mix well. Divide into 8 portions.
- Coat one side of each of the lotus root slices with flour. Take a portion of ground pork mix and sandwich in between two slices of lotus root, flour-coated side facing inwards. Press so the meat comes through the holes, but make sure the meat doesn’t squeeze out past the lotus root edges. Repeat for the other 7 portions of pork filling.
- Pour vegetable oil (about 3cm deep) into a deep-walled saucepan and heat it to 170-180 degrees (you’ll know it’s hot enough if you drop in a bit of batter and it sizzles). Lightly mix (B) together (don’t overmix!) and coat the lotus root sandwiches in batter. Add them to the saucepan in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan, and deep-fry for 6-7 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Set the cooked sandwiches on a paper-lined tray to drain off excess oil. Put on plates and serve with soy sauce and karashi.