Since starting this blog, and its attached Instantgram account, I’ve posted 12 blogs and 41 insta-photos, and the dish that has received the most enthusiastic response, both online and from my own family, has been… renkon chips? That’s unexpected, but I will take any enthusiasm I can get for my tiny blog and 40-follower Instagram.
Renkon (れんこん・蓮根) is the Japanese word for lotus root, and it is a curious little vegetable. The lotus plant is an aquatic plant similar to a water lily, and looks something like this:
The renkon is the rhizome of that plant, which (*furious Googling*) Wikipedia defines as “a modified subterranean plant stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.” As far as I can tell, that means that the main part of the plant is buried underground and the shoots, leaves, flowers, and roots all grow out of that thing. (Rhizomes are also apparently referred to as “creeping rootstalk,” a term I clearly need to use more often around the house.) The Instagram- and blog-logo-friendly pattern of the holes in the renkon are actually called aerenchyma, and help the plant circulate air, or something.
But this is a food blog, not a science blog, and the renkon is a beautiful and tasty root vegetable. It has a mild, kind of earthy taste, as you would expect from a root vegetable, and its crunchiness is the inspiration for the name of this blog. We eat a lot of it, usually either cooked and marinated in vinegar (su renkon・酢れんこん) or stir-fried with soy sauce (kinpira・れんこんのきんぴら). It’s a very healthy vegetable, but with this recipe we’re going to try our best to make it unhealthy and snackable. We’re going to do that by cutting it into very thin circles and deep frying them. So, prettier potato chips.
- 1 renkon/lotus root — or more, but you get quite a lot of chips from one root and deep frying them takes a while.
- A little potato starch for dusting the chips before frying.
- Peanut oil for frying.
- Toppings — I use salt and a powdered seaweed called aonori (青のり).
- Peel the renkon and slice thinly. I use a mandolin slicer on the 1/16 inch setting (about 1.5mm).
- Carefully put the renkon slices between two paper towels and let them set for ~30 minutes to get some of the water out.
- Remove the paper towels and dust the renkon slices with a little potato starch.
- Pour oil into a thick frying pan, just enough so that the renkon slices can float without touching the bottom.
- Heat the oil to around 170c/350f — stick a chopstick in and see if bubbles appear around it — and then place renkon slices one by one into the oil. In my fairly small frying pan I can usually do around 5-6 at a time.
- When the chips are golden brown, crispy, and look like chips instead of vegetables, remove from the oil and place on another paper towel to remove some oil. Done.
Sprikle salt and aonori on top, and eat. They make a nice otsumami, a snack for drinking alcohol with. You can also put them in salads to add some crunch, but mine have never survived long enough to try that.