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Definition: water chestnut from Collins English Dictionary

n 1 Also called: water caltrop a floating aquatic onagraceous plant, Trapa natans, of Asia, having four-pronged edible nutlike fruits

2 Chinese water chestnut a Chinese cyperaceous plant, Eleocharis tuberosa, with an edible succulent corm

3 the corm of the Chinese water chestnut, used in Oriental cookery

Summary Article: Water Chestnut
From The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

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.

Flavor pairings

Shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil.

Classic recipes

Chop suey; rumaki.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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