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Chinese Lotus Root and Pork Soup

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Lotus root soup (Leng Ngau Tong in Cantonese) is one of the most common and popular Chinese home cooking soup. Most of us in a Chinese household would have fond memories of having this soup regularly while growing up. This soup is not only very simple to prepare but tasty as well and has high nutritional values too. Traditionally, this soup is made with fresh lotus roots, pork spare ribs, dried cuttlefish and red dates. Raw peanuts with skin on and dried goji berries are also frequently added to make this soup. Lotus root soup is a celebratory soup for Chinese New Year as lotus root means wealth and prosperity for every year. Some Cantonese restaurants serve this soup as a free courtesy soup before the main meals. For my naturally gluten free recipe, I am using bone on pork shoulder, frozen lotus root, raw peanuts with skin on and red dates. This recipe is also dairy free, soy free, corn free and egg free. This soup can also be made nut free without the peanuts if you have nut allergy, just add 2 tablespoons dried goji berries instead.

Lotus root (Nelumbo nucifera) or renkon in Japan, is an edible rhizome (the subterranean stem) of an aquatic perennial plant that produces white or pink flowers and it is part of the Nelumbonaceae family. Lotus root is believed to be holy by the Hindus and Buddhists, as such it is commonly referred to as Sacred Lotus, Sacred Water Lotus and Chinese Arrowroot. Nearly the whole plant is edible including its seeds, leaves, flowers and tubers. Lotus root plant grow in the mud of ponds, swamplands and flooded fields. Lotus roots are cylinder-shaped and brown in colour. But once sliced across, it looks like wheel shaped with small holes. They are crunchy and starchy with sweet and mild nutty flavour. The young lotus roots are more delicate and mainly consumed for culinary uses. The mature lotus roots are usually dried and packaged. They can be purchased peeled and packed in brine, frozen or dried. Lotus roots can be used as an ingredient in soups, stir-fries, salads, steamed or braised dishes and fried as tempura or crispy chips. Lotus roots are available all year round either fresh, frozen or dried at Asian groceries stores and fresh at wet or farmers markets. When purchasing fresh lotus roots, choose roots that are vibrant brownish colour, stout and heavy with firm texture and smooth skin with on blemishes. As fresh lotus roots grow in mud, they need to be thoroughly washed and cleaned, then peeled and sliced. It is also important to consume only cooked lotus roots to prevent any parasitic contamination.

One unusual element about lotus root is when consuming the stems, as you bite into them, you will detect some stringy lotus fibres that resemble spider webs. They are long fibre strands that are soft and delicate threads. In Myanmar, these lotus fibres are created into exclusive robes for senior monks for their yearly Buddhist celebration. The fabric produced from lotus fibres bear a resemblance to a hybrid of silk and linen, naturally stain-resistant, waterproof and soft to the touch. Luxury goods brands and high end fashion houses or designers worldwide are today also researching the characteristics of lotus fibre and clothing made from lotus fibres can be sold at a premium price.

Lotus roots are rich in dietary fiber, very low in cholesterol and saturated fats. They are a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), copper, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. Health benefits of lotus roots include: promote healthy digestive system and regular bowel movements; boots the immune system; help regulate blood circulation and blood sugar level; reduce risks of cardiovascular disease;  aid in weight loss management; assist in lowering cholesterols level; help in stress reduction; support mental health; prevents water retention; promote healthy skin and hair and support healthy bones. Lotus roots have also been used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine to cure bleeding like nose bleed, vomiting of blood and diarrhea.  They have also demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-pyretic (reduce and treat fever) and anti-anxiety properties.

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