What Is A Water Chestnut?

Description: Don’t confuse the water chestnut with the chestnuts that are the subject of “The Christmas Song” (aka “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”); the latter are nuts and the former aquatic root vegetables. In fact, water chestnuts, or eleocharis dulcis (if you took Latin in high school or were a Roman legionnaire in a past life), are perennials from a family of plants called sedge, a type of marshy grass. Water chestnuts, the edible part at the base of these grasses, have a brown skin and white-fleshed interior and are indigenous to Southeast Asia.

Flavor Profile: The crunchy, juicy interior has a mild apple-coconut taste; water chestnuts remain crispy even after cooking and thus are popular in stir-fry dishes, sliced thinly in soups, and as an egg roll ingredient.   

Prep: To eat raw, wash the water chestnuts in cold water, and then soak in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes (soaking them softens the shell). With a paring knife, make a small crisscross cut at the root of each chestnut. To avoid cutting the flesh, don’t cut too deep. Peel off shell and enjoy.  

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Try ’Em Dining Out: The Thai dumplings at Reka’s Thai in White Plains contain water chestnuts along with ground pork, crab meat, and bamboo shoots; at Dragon City Chinese in Mamaroneck, there’s the vegetarian Buddhist Delight (water chestnuts, broccoli, black mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, corn, tofu, snow peas, and red peppers).

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