Today’s recipe is for braised lotus roots (yeon-geun-jorim: 연근조림), something that my readers and viewers have been requesting for years! The roots taste somewhere between a potato and a radish, and braising them (cooking at low heat in sauce) like this makes for a sweet, salty, and chewy side dish. It’s for special occasions and not something that you eat every day. It takes some time to make but the texture is very unique: soft with some crispiness, but also chewy and jellylike. This recipe is new to my website but it’s in my cookbook published in 2015.
When I lived in Korea yeon-geun-jorim was something we often put in lunchboxes for school picnics. Just a few of them in the lunchbox, pretty and shiny like gems surrounded by other side dishes, make the whole lunchbox look beautiful. The braised root slices look like garnishes but are actually really tasty to eat.
Lotus roots are tough, so you first need to prepare them properly. You can actually eat the roots raw but for this recipe we soak and blanch before braising them. Soaking them removes excessive starch. The root has a subtly astringent taste, but a little bit of vinegar (any kind) will remove it. The vinegar also makes the root slices a little whiter.
Lotus roots can be found at a Korean, Chinese, or Japanese grocery store. These days, when I visit a Korean grocery store, I see pre-sliced lotus root packed in some liquid being sold. You can try them but make sure they aren’t sliced too thin. They should be¼ inch (0.6 cm) thick.
Choose roots that are smooth and evenly colored with no blemishes. It’s almost impossible to find a perfect one with no brown spots at all, so you need to compromise and get the one with the fewest freckles. : ) I like to get the roundest one I can so my yeon-geun-jorim ends up round like a circle. But writing this, I kind of feel bad for triangle or distorted shaped roots. Yeon-geun-jorim can be triangular, why not? You might like that better as long as it tastes the same as round one!
- 1 pound skinned and trimmed lotus roots
- 1 teaspoon white or apple vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- ¾ cup rice syrup (or ½ cup sugar)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Slice lotus roots into ¼ inch (0.6 cm) thick discs. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes.
- Boil some water in a pot. Add vinegar and blanch the lotus root slices for 5 minutes, uncovered. Rinse in cold water and strain.
- Heat up vegetable oil in a heavy non-stick pan. Stir fry the sliced roots for a few minutes until they get a little softer and translucent.
- Add 2¼ cup water, garlic, and soy sauce. Stir and cover. Turn down the heat to low, and cook for 40 minutes. Occasionally open the cover and turn them over to brown evenly. Add more water if necessary.
- Add rice syrup and stir. Cover and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Open and turn up the heat to medium high. Carefully stir and turn over the roots and braise for 10 to 12 minutes, until each slice gets shiny like jelly and almost all the liquid is evaporated.
- Remove from the heat and stir in sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Serve as a side dish for rice. If you have some leftover, put it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge up to 2 weeks.