Lotus stem is frequently used in Chinese, as well as Japanese cuisines. Less so, but it's also used in India, particularly in the North.
I learned to love it and cook with it while living in Singapore, where is it easily found in the fridge aisle of most supermarkets, usually already peeled and sliced.
Here, I simmered the lotus stems in mild aromatic spices and yogurt and the combination of flavours is just wonderful.
I used frozen lotus stems as fresh ones are hard to come by in London. If you are using fresh ones, just make sure you half-cook them in boiling water before adding them to the gravy.
Yogurt gives it a faint sour taste and also balances the sweetness of the spices used here - dried mint, aniseed, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon. The fried onion paste also imparts sweet notes and makes even more delicious.
Let me know what you think!
Lotus stems, peeled and slices 300g
Green cardamom 4
Black cardamom 3
Cinnamon 1 stick
Aniseed 1 tsp
Dried mint 1/2 tbsp
Black cumin (shah jeera) 1 tsp
Ginger, grated 1 tbsp
Onion 1, ground to a paste
Ghee 1 tbsp
Oil 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Yogurt 2 cups
Water 1 cup
If you are using frozen lotus stems, thaw them before using. If using fresh, peel and slice them and half-cook them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt till smooth. Keep aside. Use full fat fresh yogurt. Cold yogurt or low-fat yogurt can curdle in the gravy.
Heat the ghee and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onion paste. Fry on a medium heat until browned and translucent.
Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, aniseed and ginger. Fry for another minute, then add the yogurt and water. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the gravy has reduced to thick, smooth and creamy. You may notice a little curdling at first, but it will thicken as the water evaporates.
When the yogurt has reached the right consistency and is cooked (this will take around 45-60 mins on a simmer), remove the lid and add the lotus steams, salt, dried mint and black cumin. Give it a nice stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes, then serve immediately with rice.