A water lily whose leaves, root and seeds are often used in Asian cooking. The huge lotus leaves have a diameter of from 11 to 15 inches. They can be found fresh and dried in Asian markets. These leaves are used both as a flavoring and to wrap sweet and savory mixtures (rice, meat, fruit, etc.) for steaming. The underwater lotus root can be up to 4 feet long. It looks like a solid-link chain with 8-inch lengths, each about 3 inches in diameter. It has a reddish-brown skin that must be peeled before using. The lotus root's creamy-white flesh has the crisp texture of a raw potato and a flavor akin to fresh coconut. Besides the fresh form, it's also available canned, dried and candied. Lotus root is used as a vegetable as well as in sweet dishes. The oval, delicately flavored lotus seeds are eaten out of hand both in their fresh and dried forms. Dried seeds are also candied and used in desserts and pastry fillings. They can be purchased canned or in bulk in Asian markets. The lotus is also called hasu and renkon.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.