The seed of the lotus
plant is about the size of a small hazelnut
). It is a dirty white color, which it generally retains even after being cooked. The end is brown and often seems to open slightly like the beak of a bird. If you are lucky, inside the dry seed there will be a dark green oblong sprout
, furled and folded. The sprout is bitter and is often removed and sold separately, for its attributed medicinal properties (bitter
foods are generally classified as “cooling” and good for the stomach).
The lotus seed is an important starch in Chinese winter cooking, and appears frequently in sweetened bean, rice, and barley concoctions.
Lotus seeds are sold in many Chinese dry-goods stores, and you should be able to find them in large cities outside of the Chinese world if there is a market-going Chinese population. When cooked, the seeds ordinarily expand to more than three times their dry volume, so be prepared.
There is also a sweetened paste of lotus seeds, a favorite filling in buns that tastes something like creme de marron glacé (purée of candied chestnuts, a French sin).