Recipe courtesy of Andy Liang for Food Network Kitchen

Crispy Stuffed Lotus Root with Pork

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Lotus root is prized for its characteristic texture, which is similar to water chestnuts. Even after stir-frying, frying, boiling, braising or steaming, it remains crisp and tender. This traditional dish is made during Chinese New Year -- in Cantonese, lotus root ("leen ngau") is directly translated to "year have," meaning you should have another year to come -- and is a beautiful harmony of crunchy coating, crisp lotus root and savory (and juicy) pork filling. In this version, we dust the stuffed lotus roots with flour to help hold them together; seltzer in the batter (though not classic) contributes to a crispy batter. Ground dark meat chicken can be substituted for the ground pork if you prefer. You can also omit the chicken bouillon powder, though it is commonly used in Chinese cooking to help amplify flavor. Though the stuffed lotus roots are usually served warm with the soy vinegar dipping sauce, they are also amazing at room temperature.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min
  • Active: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings (about 16 pieces)
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Ingredients

Directions

  1. To stuff the lotus roots: Peel each lotus root and then wash well. Remove both ends and cut the lotus root into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 32 slices, if possible). Soak the slices in a large bowl of cold water to prevent the lotus root from turning black and remove some of the starches.
  2. Add the ground pork, Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon of the potato starch, 4 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of the toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, the ground white pepper and the chicken bouillon powder if using to a large bowl. Add all the scallion white parts and half of the green parts and 3 tablespoons cold water, and stir in one direction until the mixture is combined and very sticky, 3 to 5 minutes. Set the filling aside. 
  3. Drain the lotus root slices and arrange them in pairs of similar-size slices on a sheet of paper towel. Pat dry with a second paper towel. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pork filling on 1 piece of each pair of lotus root slices. If there is leftover pork filling, evenly divide it among the slices. Top the filling with the remaining lotus root slices to make sandwiches. Gently press them together so the pork fills the holes of the lotus roots on both sides; smooth the filling around the edges.  
  4. To fry the lotus roots: Fill a wok or a Dutch oven with about 1 1/2 inches frying oil (about 4 cups for a wok) and heat it over medium heat to 300 degrees F. Set a cooling rack in a baking sheet. As the oil is heating up, lightly dust the outside of the stuffed lotus roots with flour.  
  5. Mix the batter by whisking the flour, baking powder, baking soda, five-spice powder, 1/3 cup potato starch, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl until combined. Slowly drizzle in the seltzer and whisk until the batter is just smooth and resembles the consistency of a crepe batter. If the batter is too thick, add a tablespoon of cold seltzer at the time until it reaches the right consistency. Stir in 2 ice cubes to keep the batter cold. 
  6. When the oil is ready, one at a time, dip a stuffed lotus root into the batter to coat and then carefully lower it into the hot oil. Repeat with more stuffed lotus roots so you are frying 7 to 8 pieces at a time, regulating the heat to bring it back to 300 degrees F. Cook, gently moving the lotus roots so they don't stick to the bottom, until light golden, 5 to 6 minutes (you aren't cooking them all the way through because they will be fried again). Remove from the oil using a spider or slotted spoon and set on the prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining stuffed lotus roots. (The lotus roots will turn soggy after a few minutes, that is normal.) 
  7. Increase the heat to high heat and bring the oil to 350 degrees F. Fry half the stuffed lotus roots until dark golden brown and very crunchy, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove them to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining stuffed lotus roots.  
  8. To make the dipping sauce: Whisk together the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add the white vinegar, chili crisp, sesame seeds, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil and green parts of the scallions. 
  9. Serve the lotus roots warm with the dipping sauce. 

Cook’s Note

When choosing lotus roots at the grocery store, inspect them for any bruising or cuts. They should be smooth and a bit heavy for their size. Look for larger ones for this recipe. If you can only find small ones, use only 2 teaspoons of pork filling in each lotus root. Light soy sauce is a staple pantry ingredient in many Chinese households. It is lighter in color and sometimes saltier than regular soy sauce, though brands can vary. It is often preferred because it doesn't darken sauces, so vegetables and proteins remain vibrant in finished dishes.