Chinese Water Chestnuts (馬蹄)
Chinese Water Chestnuts, also known as water chestnuts, are native to Asia. Although the title of ‘Chestnut’ alludes to the notion that it is part of the nut family, this is false. They are in fact an aquatic vegetable that grows underwater in the mud or marshes.
One can identify the Chinese Water Chestnuts by their appearance. Traditionally, they are mahogany-coloured and ball shaped. Normally, Chinese Water Chestnuts can measure up to 1-2 inches in diameter. There are, however, two different vegetables that possess the title of the ‘water chestnut’, with the correct vegetable (the one referred throughout this article), is also known as ‘Ling Gok’ and is available in China, especially in Hong Kong. Chinese Water Chestnuts are generally accessible in late autumn and winter, as they are traditionally planted in the Spring.
Chinese Water Chestnuts generally contain rich levels of minerals such as carbohydrates, dietary fiber, copper and potassium; and vitamins B6. When choosing Chinese Water Chestnuts, it is important to get the freshest you can – which you will be able to tell from the unwrinkled skin and when peeling, the inside should not have softened too much.
Overall, the flavour and texture of Chinese Water Chestnuts is unique, offering a sweet yet crunchy and succulent texture. However, as will be further discussed, the ways in which one prepares and cooks the Chinese Water Chestnuts will vary the taste.
To prepare, wash and peel the skin of the Chinese Water Chestnuts and remove the top of the vegetable. The flesh inside should be crisp white, if not, make sure to dispose of these. If you are not cooking the Chestnuts immediately, then you can keep the peeled nuts within a jar. Make sure to cover with either slightly salted or sugared water as to retain freshness. When boiling the Chinese Water Chestnuts, they have a firm and crunchy texture.
Chinese Water Chestnuts can be added into a variety of meals. Firstly, the Chestnuts, once properly cleaned, can be eaten straight out of your hand as a snack or even as a dessert. They can be added to stir-fries, noodle or riches dishes, and within dumpling fillings to enhance taste and texture. When eaten as a dessert, which is extremely common throughout China, the Chestnuts are sweetened. The Chestnuts can also be ground into a flour, and be used within a variety of cakes. A traditional dish that Chinese Water Chestnuts are often added to is Stiff Pudding. Made from rice flour, sugar, Water Chestnut flour and fresh Chinese Water Chestnuts, all you have to do is steam the Chestnuts when they are solid, cool and then slice into sections before frying them and then serving them.
In addition to its nutritional values and unique addition to a variety of meals, Chinese Water Chestnuts have for centuries been used for medicinal purposes. Traditionally, they were ground into a power, or made into a juice. These were thought to help relieve a myriad of health issues such as alleviated sickness, or detoxing the body of impurities.