For a quick and easy side dish, this delicious stir fried lotus root recipe will surprise your guests with an unassuming punchy hot and sour flavour that will keep them coming back for more.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
Family gatherings for us generally involve a table full of yummy food. We gather around the table with a spread of a few main meat dishes plus a sprinkling of vegetable side dishes. In addition, nourishing soup is often served to fuel the body.
Our vegetable side dishes commonly involve blanching a green leafy vegetable like bok choy and dousing in oyster sauce. Not that I don’t like this, I very much do! But I also want to cook vegetable dishes that are not so one note. And stir-fried lotus roots is one of my go-to side dishes for these occasions.
This lotus root stir fry is still only one vegetable kinda dish. Therefore no one expects too much from it. However, once they have a bite, I get the same question – “Oh, what did you put in this?”
Stir fried lotus roots deliver a crunchy texture with punchy hot and sour flavours with garlic, ginger and chilli mixed together. I love this because it is easy, fast and hardly any leftovers. Great Asian side dish recipe to have up your sleeve.
What Is Lotus Root?
Although the name suggests root, lotus root is actually the stem of the lotus plant. The lotus plant is an aquatic plant that grows beautiful pink or white flowers. It is a versatile ingredient as you can eat many parts of the plant – including root, stem, seeds and leaves.
Lotus root is a long tubular shape with segments. When cut open, you will see teardrop shaped holes in the middle where the seeds are held. Lotus root has a firm texture with white-beige skin.
Lotus Root Nutrition
I’ve grown up eating lotus roots. We would typically have it in soup with pork bones as it is known to be highly nutritious. Possibly one of the reasons why lotus root is an important ingredient in Chinese vegetarian dishes.
Lotus root is low in calories with a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin B, vitamin C, and many minerals, including iron, potassium, copper, and zinc.
What Does Lotus Root Taste Like?
Overall I feel lotus root has a nutty, earthy potato-like taste. However, the taste and texture do vary depending on how you cook it. Somewhat similar to a taro root.
The texture is crisp and crunchy when thinly sliced and fried but becomes a creamy and starchy texture when braised or steamed. I enjoy eating lotus root either way.
Flavour/Texture: Even though I have bought thicker slices of lotus roots for this recipe, the overall texture of stir-fried lotus root is still crunchy. I love how there is still a crisp bite but with a slightly starchy feel.
This lotus root stir fry side dish is very unassuming, but the flavours are not. When you mix black vinegar, brown sugar and chilli, it gives you an explosion of hot, sour and sweet.
Ease: Super easy as I use frozen pre-sliced lotus roots in this recipe. There is nothing much more than to slice the condiments and quick stir fry. This is an easy lotus root stir fry side dish that can be prepared any day of the week.
Time: This is a quick side dish to prepare and cook—maximum 15 minutes.
Lotus Roots: Also known as renkon in Japanese cooking, I usually buy pre-cut and frozen lotus roots. Of course, you can purchase it fresh where you need to wash and prepare it yourself, but I don’t often do that as frozen lotus roots work perfectly for stir fries and are a lot more affordable in Australia.
I buy the thicker cut of lotus roots over thinly sliced lotus roots as I prefer a chunky bite to the dish. Thinly sliced lotus roots are often used as renkon chips or pickled renkon.
Garlic / Ginger: Classic Asian aromates, ginger and garlic add flavour and warmth to the dish. I like how they crisp up a little when stir-fried together with the lotus roots, another layer of texture as well.
Chilli: I used a long red chilli in this side dish to give a medium heat level and vibrant colour. However, if you wish to have more heat, I suggest using a bird’s eye chilli.
Coriander: I love the sprinkling of coriander for colour and leafiness.
Chinese black vinegar: Not only delivers sharp, tangy flavours, but Chinese black vinegar also adds a rich aromatic flavour to a dish. I find Chinese black vinegar not only seasons it but adds depth and an earthy umami profile.
Soy sauce: For the salty element, light soy sauce is to balance the black vinegar.
Sesame oil: This is quintessential to classic Chinese cooking as good sesame oil adds aromatic flavours second to none.
Shaoxing wine: One of our pantry staples, Shaoxing wine can truly transform a dish. Made from fermenting rice, water and wheat together, it adds a richer flavour to your cooking.
Shaoxing wine is easily purchased from Asian grocery stores or larger supermarkets. It can be labelled Chinese cooking wine or also called Hua Diao Jiu.
Brown sugar: You cannot balance hot and sour without sweet. Brown sugar compliments the dark Chinese black vinegar well. The caramel flavours of brown sugar is a perfect match to the malt flavours in Chinese black vinegar.
Oil: any mild flavour oil like vegetable or avocado oil is fine to use for stir fries.
How to Make Stir Fried Lotus Roots
Defrost frozen sliced lotus roots.
To speed up the process, you can place frozen lotus roots into a bowl of lukewarm water. Let them sit until the ice has melted and the lotus root is malleable. This doesn’t take long, a few minutes. You can let the lotus roots defrost while you prepare the other ingredients.
Remove from water and pat dry. For the stir fried lotus root to not splatter in the oil, make sure they are nice and dry.
Slice garlic cloves and ginger into thin matchsticks.
Slice chilli into thin rounds.
Wash and roughly chop coriander.
Place black vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl. Mix well until brown sugar has dissolved.
In a large fry pan or wok, add ½ oil and heat over high heat.
Once hot, add sliced ginger, garlic and chilli to the fry pan and do a quick stir fry. This will help release aromas and flavours into the oil. Once garlic and ginger start to brown, remove the mix from the fry pan and set aside for later.
Add remaining oil to the fry pan and then sliced lotus roots. Stir fry lotus roots for about 1-2 minutes and then flip over to fry the other side to golden brown as well.
Then add the black vinegar sauce mixture to the frypan.
The sauce will bubble, and the lotus roots will start to absorb all the liquid. Keep moving the lotus roots, so the sauce fully covers them.
Once the liquid is all absorbed, place stir fried ginger, garlic and chilli back into the frypan.
Toss lotus roots together with stir fried ginger, garlic and chilli for about 1 minute or so.
Remove and place on a serving plate.
Scatter chopped coriander and serve.
Variations and Substitutions
Frozen lotus roots: You can, of course, use fresh lotus roots in this recipe. Cut lotus roots into 0.5 – 1 cm thick slices. I would not use the dried version as they will be too thick and take some time to soak. I usually only use dried lotus roots in soup or braises.
Substituting Chinese black vinegar: If you don’t have black vinegar, you can use white rice vinegar instead and add a little kecap manis to balance the caramel flavours. You can also try balsamic vinegar but try not to use one that is sweeter or syrupy.
Substituting Shaoxing wine: Japanese mirin is a good option if you don’t have Shaoxing wine or try dry sherry.
Adjust the heat: You can increase the heat level by adjusting the amount of chilli in the recipe.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
Steamed fish with ginger, scallion and soy sauce: This is a restaurant-quality dish you can easily cook at home in just 30 minutes. Serve this light yet flavourful dish as well as this hot and sour lotus root side dish with rice for a healthy and delicious meal.
Authentic arroz caldo: Filipino rice porridge casserole rice and chicken gruel is the perfect winter dish to warm the soul. Spice it up with this hot and sour lotus root side dish and you’ll have a wonderful meal!
Instant Pot sesame chicken: This is a dump and start recipe that is cooked in a rich honey soy sauce. This Chinese classic is made so easy in the Instant Pot, perfect for a busy mid-week dinner and definitely much better than a take out! Make it really special by serving it up with this hot and sour lotus root side dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lotus roots can be used in many different types of dishes. My first memories of lotus roots are in soups. The earthy flavours mixed with pork bones, red dates and dried squid may seem strange to some, but it is delicious.
I also remember lotus roots in many Chinese vegetarian dishes. Braised often with Chinese cabbage and tofu, lotus roots would soak up all the surrounding flavours and be so delicious to eat with steamed rice.
Other popular recipes for cooking lotus roots include stir fry, lotus root chips, stews, and pickles.
The best place to buy lotus roots would be your Asian grocery stores. You can purchase lotus roots in three forms – fresh, frozen and dried.
Fresh lotus roots are not as easy to find here in Melbourne, so I tend to purchase frozen lotus roots. Fresh or frozen versions would be great in all the recipes, especially lotus root stir fry, pickled or deep fried.
For dried lotus roots, I only use it in long boil soups or slow braises. This is because it takes some time to rehydrate the root.
A dark coloured vinegar with sharp notes, Chinese black vinegar is made from glutinous rice and traditionally matured in clay pots.
I am a big fan of Chinese black vinegar and normally have a large serving with my pan fried dumplings. I love the tangy flavours of Chinese black vinegar. We use it often in dressings, sauces, stir-fries, stews and even soups.
I normally cook stir-fried lotus roots just before serving, but they can be reheated if you need to prepare them earlier.
This stir fried lotus root is one of my go-to for extended family dinners. I never have leftovers. It is easy and so quick to prepare. My family is surprised by the mix of hot, sour and savoury flavours all mingled together when they bite into lotus roots. The reason why they keep wanting more!
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Hot and Sour Stir Fried Lotus Root
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- Defrost frozen sliced lotus roots.
- Slice garlic cloves and ginger into thin matchsticks.
- Slice chilli into thin rounds.
- Wash and roughly chop coriander.
- Place black vinegar, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, brown sugar and sesame oil in a small mixing bowl. Mix well until brown sugar has dissolved.
- In a large fry pan or wok, add ½ oil and heat over high heat. Once hot, add sliced ginger, garlic and chilli to the fry pan and do a quick stir fry. Once garlic and ginger start to brown, remove the mix from the fry pan and set aside for later.
- Add remaining oil to the fry pan and then sliced lotus roots. Stir fry lotus roots for about 1-2 minutes and then flip over to fry the other side to golden brown as well.
- Add black vinegar sauce mixture to the fry pan.
- Keep moving the lotus roots, so the sauce fully covers them.
- Once liquid is all absorbed, add stir fried ginger, garlic and chilli back into the fry pan.
- Toss lotus roots together with stir fried ginger, garlic and chilli for about 1 minute or so.
- Remove and place on a serving plate.
- Scatter chopped coriander and serve.
- You can substitute frozen with fresh lotus roots if available. Cut lotus roots into 0.5 – 1 cm thick slices. Do not use dried lotus roots in this recipe.
- Substitute black vinegar with white rice vinegar instead and add a little kecap manis to balance the caramel flavours. You can also try balsamic vinegar, but try not to use one that is sweeter or syrupy.
- Japanese mirin is a good option if you don’t have Shaoxing wine or try dry sherry.
- You can adjust the heat level by changing the amount of chilli in the recipe according to taste.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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