Other names: Waternut, Horse's hoof
Availability: All year - sporadic.
Source: Asia and the United States.
Handling Tips: 34-36° F. Keep cool and damp.
General Information: Resembling a chestnut, although its shape is more symmetrical, the water chestnut is the underwater corm of a variety of water grass. A papery skin in shades of brown peels away to reveal a densely textured, white 'nut', slightly sweet and crisp to the tooth. The greatest appeal is that water chestnuts retain their texture when cooked. Featured in savoury as well as sweet dishes throughout China and South East Asia.
Although it is most commonly associated with Chinese cooking, it is now gaining in popularity as a cooking ingredient in many different ethnic meals. Originating in Southeast Asia, water chestnuts are the roots of an aquatic plant that grows in freshwater ponds, marshes and lakes, and in slow-moving rivers and streams. Currently, water chestnuts are grown in Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand as well as in Australia. When harvesting water chestnuts, much labor is involved.
It is a rush-like plant grown in ponds for its round corms or tubers , whose chestnut brown skin color together with the chestnutty flavor and texture of the white flesh, give rise to the name "waterchestnut."
Applications: Water chestnuts can be used in a variety of recipes because they have a starchy taste that is fairly neutral. Some people claim that their flavor is similar to a bland nut. Water chestnuts also have a firm and crispy texture, which adds to their appeal as an ingredient in stir-fries, salads, or any meals where the vegetables to be used must have a crunchy consistency. Some common uses for the water chestnut include the following:
Combining them with vegetables, such as bamboo shoots and snow peas, then adding soy sauce and other seasoning to make a stir fry
Adding them chopped to soups, salads, rice, and stuffing
Wrapping them whole with bacon then baking the pieces to serve as an appetizer or as a side dish.