In this blog, I regularly introduce typically Chinese food ingredients that are less known or used differently, in Western cuisine. In this post, I am introducing the water chestnut.
Water chestnuts are named for its chestnut-like shape like chestnut. However, not only the shape, but also the taste and functions are similar to tree chestnut. The water chestnut’s skin is purple to black, the flesh is white, crisp, sweet and juicy. Even eaten raw, it makes a delicious treat. People in China’s North sometimes refer to it as ‘southern ginseng’. Water chestnut can be regarded as both fruit and vegetable. It is a popular seasonal product. The following pictures show them as you buy them and peeled.
The water chestnut is attributed medicinal qualities in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is rich in protein, dietary fibre, carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and trace elements such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, which can prevent infectious diseases and improve the quality of the body.
Phosphorus content in water chestnuts is the highest in all stem vegetables. Phosphorus can not only promote physical development, but also make sugar, fat and protein metabolise normally and maintain a proper acid-base balance.
Water chestnuts contain puchiin, which is an antimicrobial substance. It can effectively inhibit the growth of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, and can also play a role in lowering blood pressure.
Water chestnuts belong to the cold raw foods. They can clear away heat and remove fire, increase appetite and stimulate body fluid. They can dispel body discomfort and supplement nutrition. They moisten lungs, resolve phlegm and promote body fluid production. The starch and crude protein can promote the peristalsis of the large intestine, and the crude fat can moisten the intestine and relieve constipation. They are most suitable for fever patients. They cool blood and detoxify, stimulate diuresis and defecation.
Water chestnut products
In this section, I am introducing a number of classic and novel products made from water chestnuts.
Water chestnut starch
Water chestnut starch is produced by crushing, separation, dehydration and drying. Water chestnut starch is white and uniform, and can be made into other water chestnut products, such as water chestnut paste, water chestnut cake and water chestnut biscuits.
Instant water chestnut paste
Instant water chestnut paste is produced with water chestnut powder, water chestnut skin extract and other additives. The water chestnut skin extract is rich in dietary fibre and flavonoids, it promotes gastrointestinal peristalsis and improves blood circulation.
water chestnut cake
Water chestnut cake is favourite part of the famous Cantonese Dim Sum. It is rich in starch, protein and other nutrients, but it spoils easily, so it must be sterilised. It is advisable to use high temperature and short time sterilisation.
Water chestnut biscuits
A typical formulation of water chestnut biscuit is: 80 parts of wheat flour, 20 parts of water chestnut powder, 12.5 parts of sugar, 8 parts of soybean oil, 1.2 parts of yeast, 1.5 parts of baking soda and 0.5 parts of salt.
Canned water chestnut
Canned water chestnut has a crisp and refreshing texture, which is very popular with the public. Yellow browning occurs easily, when water chestnuts are exposed to air after peeling, so the need to be pre-cooked. Canned water chestnuts are sterilised at high temperature and short time.
Water chestnut beverage
Water chestnut contains a lot of water. It is easy to extract juice. Its juice is sweet and tasty. It is an ideal raw material for beverage.
Water chestnut yumberry flavoured yoghurt
Inm (Yiming) has launched a water chestnut + yumberry flavoured Greek style yoghurt in 2020. Water chestnut is nutritious, but is probably used here first of all to give the product a crunch. The yumberry (yangmei) gives it a pink colour and all the nutrition of this Chinese superfruit.
Fruit vinegar beverage
Researchers have applied response surface methodology has to optimise the fermentation conditions of water chestnuts. The initial alcohol concentration was 7.6%, the inoculation quantity of acetic acid bacteria was 10.9%, the suitable growth temperature of acetic acid bacteria was 32 C, and the acidity was above 0.045 g/ml.
During experimental production of water chestnut wine, water chestnut juice was prepared by peeling water chestnut and inoculating 2.0% – 3.0% yeast culture medium after adjusting sugar content and acidity. After fermentation at 25 C for 2 days, an 4.2% alcohol clear and tasty water chestnut wine could be produced.
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Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.