Water chestnuts are the corms (swollen bases of the leaf stalks) of a tropical plant cultivated primarily in southern China and Southeast Asia. They are sold canned in many countries, but are much better fresh and raw, when they have a sweet, intriguing flavor and a satisfying, crunchy texture. About the size and shape of a chestnut, their white flesh is covered with a tough brown skin.
Fresh water chestnuts are most likely to be found in Asian markets. The corms should be firm, with no soft spots or shriveling, and they should smell clean. Buy a generous amount because much will be lost when peeling.
They can be kept, unpeeled, for 1–2 weeks in a paper bag in the crisper of the fridge. Once peeled, they will keep for up to 1 week immersed in slightly salted water in a covered container in the fridge. Peeled water chestnuts can be frozen.
Slice raw into salads (even fruit salads) and Asian dishes. Thin slices also make fine crudités.
Peeling is easier after an initial five minutes’ blanching. Boil, steam, or stir-fry, or add to soups and rice and noodle dishes for texture.
Dry or pickle. In China, fresh water chestnuts are candied in a sugar syrup.
Shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil.
Chop suey; rumaki.
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