Lotus and Its Components
Lotus is a kind of aquatic plant or the plant that growing in water which its beauty is continuing throughout the entire year. Lotus, with the scientific name as Nelumbo Nucifera, is native to tropical Asia, with many species which the color of flowers range from white to hot pink. Lotus, in Khmer we call ‘Chhouk’, are planted by the roots incited into the soil of the pond or lake bottom. The leaves float on the water surface, or some are even grow higher than the water at about 50cm. It’s should be as large as 50cm in diameter. The flowers grow out on round thick stems, just like its leaves, rising high from the water surface.The flower is first growing out as a small bud, and grow bigger to about 5-6 cm in diameter. Then when it’s fully grown in bud stage, the flower starts to open up with many petal tiers. At the middle there is a circular seed pad of yellow color surrounded by golden hair, which it’s later grow into what Cambodians call lotus fruit (Plae Chhouk).
Cambodia with hundred of giant lotus ponds spreading throughout the country, could be regard as the world of lotus. The geography condition of Cambodia is abundant with many muddy ponds and lakes, which are best for growing lotus. Just right at the edge of Phnom Penh city, we could find lotus ponds with numerous lotus flowers blossoming, creating a delightful countryside view.
Lotus flower is considered a sacred flower which Cambodian Buddhists use in praying. Lotus symbolizes the purify and harmony of mind and spirit. The flower is offered while praying, represent honest prayers and pure belief in God.
On every holy day of Buddhism, people prepare lotus flower to pray for Buddha God in pagodas, shrines, and also at home. Even though, it’s a normal day, people still need lotus flower together with candles incense sticks while praying. It’s a complete set of offering. The lotus flower used for praying are those fully grown in bud stage, but not yet blossom. Some fold the petals of lotus buds to reveal the inner part of flower, as it’s an art of flower preparing.
There are many species of lotus which could be differentiated by the form of the flowers, however, all the species have both white and pink flowers. The most distinctive are two kinds, of one kind the flower is growing in big petals and has a long pyramid shape. There is another kind called Chhouk muy roiy sratob (100 petals lotus), that the flower grow in big round short pyramid and with more smaller petals inside.
Lotus Leaf (Slerk Chhouk)
Since ancient time, Cambodians used lotus leaves to wrap various foods and rice. For example, lotus leaf is used to pack Prohok (Khmer fish paste) and put on fire to grill, we call it Prohok Dot. Before the present of plastic bags, lotus leaf is the most popular material that the sellers in traditional markets used to wrap their goods, and tied up with a string made of water hyacinth (ខ្សែកំប្លោក), to make a handle for carrying. Even though the use of lotus leaves is now decreased, some people still prefer to use it, because it is a natural material without chemical involving in the production as the plastic bag and box.
Lotus Fruit (Plae Chhouk)
After the flower is blossomed for a period of time, the flower petals drop from the stem, leaving only the seed pod with golden hairs around it. Then slowly the seed pod develops bigger into what we called ‘lotus fruit’ of about 8-10 cm in diameter. When the fruit is mature, it’s picked up and can be eaten raw. The seeds or nuts inside is the edible part, it’s sweet, crispy and also a little bit bitter from its embryo (the heart of seed).
The ripe or over mature lotus fruit, the seeds are harder and the bitterness of the embryo increase. In Cambodia, we take this ripe lotus fruit to boil till it soft and serve. We call it ‘Chhouk Sngor’.
The more ripe lotus seeds are even harder, after collected, we roast it and it’s ‘Kror ling chhouk’. We can buy it from the market which the cover of the seeds are already taken off. There used to be a tool for open up the roasted lotus seeds, and it’s been a favorite snack people eating while chatting during their rest time.
The ripe lotus seeds also been harvested and dried to keep for years. The lotus seed dessert is also a special Khmer dessert which main ingredient is lotus seeds. There are many other kinds of cake have the filling of lotus seed pastry, where the lotus seeds are grind into flour. For instant, the moon cake of Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. Lotus seed paste is selling in bottle for eating with crusty bread, crackers, pancakes, bagels, etc. as it has a mild taste and slightly sweet.
The dried lotus fruit after taken all the seeds, is used in the decoration of dried flower arranging.
Nutritional Value of lotus seed in 100g
- 100g of lotus seed contain about 350 calories
- Carbohydrate: 63-68g
- Protein: 18g
- Fat: 1.9 – 2.5g
- Water: 13%
- Minerals: Sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus
Lotus Rootlet/ Rhizome (Kror Av Chhouk)
Lotus rootlet or rhizome or sometimes it’s called young lotus stem. It’s the white young lotus stem growing out from the root in the mud. When it’s growing old, the stem develops into leaf. Lotus rootlet is used as vegetable in sour fish soup together with tomato and pineapple. They all make a great combination, which it is a common soup dish for modern Cambodian families. Beside, the lotus rootlet is consumed fresh as Lotus Rootlet Salad, and sometimes it joins the mango salad as well. Lotus rootlet stir fry with pork, is a good dish that we can consume more lotus rootlet for health. People also make lotus rootlet into pickle.
Lotus Root (Merm Chhouk)
Lotus root is the tuberous rhizome grows in the mud. The roots form in many segments and they are easily break off at the joints. When we cut across a lotus root, inside are holes, one at the central with about other eight holes around it.
Lotus root is very fibrous, crunchy and have a bit of milky mucilage when it’s fresh. Lotus root is used in various type of Chinese dish, as it’s can be sauteed, steamed, marinated, and also used in soup. However, Khmer food is rarely make use of lotus root. It’s only cooked as soup together with carrot and black bean, and it’s considered a very nutritious soup. In Cambodia, lotus root cost about 3USD per kg, which is expensive compare to other vegetables. So people don’t cook lotus root soup very often.
Lotus root is rich in vitamin C, fiber, and has no fat. A cup of lotus root contain only 79 calories.
Use of Lotus for Health
Almost every parts of lotus containing benefits for those who consumed it. Lotus seeds are considered sweet and neutral, and are associated with the spleen, kidney, and heart. They are taken to reinforce the function of the spleen, prevent loss of kidney essence and nourish the blood. Lotus seeds are also consumed to help relieve the symptoms of diarrhea and improve appetite as they have astringent properties. Lotus seeds used with other herbs such as ginseng, poria, dioscorea, to treat some conditions like palpitations, insomnia, and irritability.
Inside the seeds, the green bitter embryo which regarded as the heart of the seed, is benefiting the heart by dispelling pathogenic heat from the heart to treat fidgets and spontaneous bleeding due to heat. The bitter parts are isoquinoline alkaliods with sedative and antispasmodic effects, which dilate the blood vessels to reduce high blood pressure.
Lotus stamens (the golden hair surrounding the seed pod) after dried, can make into a fragrant herbal tea, which has been believed that, it benefits for the old-age people who having sleep problem. The flavor is sweet, astringent, and neutral, containing flavonoids and some alkaloids, which are useful for the heart and kidney. Lotus stamen is used for treatment of leukorrhea or frequent urination.
Lotus leaves are also bitter which also contain the lotus alkaliods with hypotensive effect. It’s used for lowering blood lipids and treating fatty liver. Besides, it also benefits the stomach and spleen, treatment of summer heat and dampness accumulation.