When I was a little boy, I was member of a scout organisation and one of my favourite memories is harvesting chestnuts. Sometimes we made an animals out them but mostly we harvested them for wild animals living in the nearby nature reserve as we were working closely with the forest guard and once a month we went to feed animals. It was such a great time for us kids! Later in life, it was in London where I start eating roasted chestnuts and in Singapore, where I explored chestnut in Chinese dishes as well as in healthy drinks.
Both varieties of chestnut that I got to know are delicious. However, they are not related at all and belong to two different plant families. The chestnuts I was used to as a child are grown on the beech tree family. These chestnuts are shiny brown nuts covered in prickly green burr, the brown nuts white inside vary in sizes and flavour based on the species.
Water chestnuts belong to the sedge family. This species love to live in or nearby boggy and aquatic places and thus they grow well around the rice paddies.
Water chestnuts are widely used in Asian cooking for their crunchiness even if they are well cooked. Water chestnuts are also dried and ground into flour. Water chestnuts are so popular in tropical countries that water chestnuts are often rotated with rice in paddy fields. You can use them thinly sliced in soups, minced and placed in as an egg roll ingredient, or sautéed to use in stir fries. They’re the main ingredient in a Thai dessert, tabtim krob, and in the West they’re sometimes wrapped with bacon strips as an hors d’oeuvre. In Indonesia they’re blended into a drink.
My favourite way to enjoy water chestnuts is either fresh and crunchy with bit of seasoning, preserved in honey and sugar or as a fresh juice.
What is your favourite way to consume water chestnuts?
The Juice of Water Chestnut
16 pieces of Fresh Water Chestnuts
1000 ml of Still water
3 pieces Sugar cane stick, 5cm (Increase the amount of sticks if you prefer it sweeter)
50 gm Pandan leaves
50 gm Rock sugar (Add sugar based on your preference)
- Clean and peel off water chestnuts.
- Peel the skin from sugar cane and combine with the rest of ingredients in a cooking pan and let it soak for 1 hour (except the rock sugar)
- Bring to boil.
- Boil for 5 mins, lower the heat, add the rock sugar and let it dissolve.
- Cook on low heat for another 15 minutes.
- Once cooked, take it off the heat and let it cool down and refrigerate.
- To serve, pour the chilled juice into a glass and enjoy the drink.
Bartender’s note: Water Chestnuts – could be a great a bar snack with a touch of spices.