Inspired by a dish cooked in Episode 10 of Izakaya Bottakuri. If you haven’t discovered the wonders of Japanese food shows on Netflix, I urge you to browse the list. Just don’t watch while hungry especially if you’re in the habit of watching TV just before bed.
Okay, so, this snack / side dish / appetizer consists of two parts — the lotus root and the filling. Lotus root is a vegetable; the filling is a mixture of ground pork, scallions, chives, garlic, ginger, sake, sesame seed oil and soy sauce. If you’re not familiar with lotus root, see the linked post below.
Read it? Okay, so you now know what lotus root is and what it looks like. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin then cut the lotus root into thin slices.
Because lotus root discolors fast once cut open, you will have to soak it in water with a little vinegar mixed in so that it retains its color while you prep the filling.
When the filling is ready, drain the lotus root slices, lay them on a stack of paper towels, cover with another stack of paper towels and press to remove excess surface moisture. Two reasons for doing this. The first is to minimize oil spatter during frying. The second is make the surface crisp. If you haven’t discovered it yet, surface moisture is the enemy of fried food.
Take a slice of lotus root, press a heap of filling to cover one side, top with another slice of lotus root (just like making a sandwich) and press to remove air pockets. Tip: do not overstuff the lotus root. Cooking time shoud be short so that the lotus root slices retain much of the crunchiness instead of turning starchy which happens with prolonged cooking.
Now take your stuffed lotus root and cover every inch of the surface with starch. In Japanese cooking, potato starch is the default as it makes the lightest and crispiest coating. To avoid getting disappointed with the results, do not substitute wheat-based flour. Cornstarch is an okay substitution (but the coating will not be as light). Tapioca starch will make the coating too chewy.
Fry the stuffed lotus roots until the surface is golden and crisp. Ground pork does not take a long time to cook so it should be cooked through by that time.
Crispy stuffed lotus root (renkon hasami-age)
To cook the stuffed lotus root
- potato starch
- cooking oil for frying
- lemon wedges
- salt optionally, mixed with ground pepper
Prep the lotus root
- Using a vegetable peeler (or a paring knife), peel the lotus root.
- Cut the peeled lotus root into thin slices (thinner than a quarter of an inch if you can manage it).
- Half fill a large bowl with water, stir in a teaspoon of vinegar and dump the sliced lotus root in the liquid to avoid discoloration while you prepare the filling.
Make the filling
- Mix together all the ingredients for the filling.
Stuff the lotus root
- Drain the lotus root slices and dry between paper towels.
- Lay a slice of lotus root flat on one hand and cover it with the ground pork mixture (see notes after the recipe).
- Take another slice of lotus root and cover the filling. Press lightly to remove air pockets.
- Repeat until all lotus root slices have been stuffed.
- Dredge each stuffed lotus root lightly in starch. Make sure that you coat the exposed portion of the filling with starch too.
Fry the stuffed lotus root
- In a frying pan or wok, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Fry the stuffed lotus root in batches of three or four. If they are not completely submerged in oil, you will need to flip them over for even cooking.
- Cook the stuffed lotus roots for four to five minutes or until the surface is golden and crisp.
Serve your stuffed lotus root
- Drain the fried stuffed lotus root and drain on paper towels.
- Cut each piece into halves and serve with lemon wedges and salt.