Lotus seeds. It’s what I experimented with this week. This part of the world recently celebrated the Mid-Autumn festival, and that means mooncakes! Mooncakes of various shapes and sizes, colours and flavours were all over my Instagram feed (are you following me on Insta?). I had no idea how or what mooncakes were made of, and had never bothered to find out; until a couple of weeks ago when the mister came home with some mooncakes, gifted to him by a client (gotta love the food gifting clients). I was told there’s a particular way these are to be eaten. Each little mooncake has to be cut into half and then half again and many more halves till you have small little slices and only a tiny sliver is to be served along with some Chinese tea. The Chinese tea is served to help offset the sweetness of the mooncake. After hearing all this, and making the recommended Chinese tea, I was quite sure I was not going to enjoy this particular delicacy. But, because I’m always up for trying new food, I took a small little bite. My first thought was, where’s the overwhelming sweetness I was expecting? (I guess the Chinese have an altogether different scale to measure sweetness). Contrary to my assumption, I fell in love with mooncakes and especially the filling. It’s difficult to describe a taste that is not familiar to you, but if I had to, I would say the filling reminded me of atte ka halwa (probably not a very good analogy, but it’s all I can think of).
Mooncakes are round delicate pastries; usually made with a filling of lotus seed paste (other fillings include red bean paste, mung bean paste, nuts and seeds). Most also have a salted egg yolk placed at the centre, the round yolk represents the full moon; in Chinese culture the full moon symbolizes prosperity and good fortune.
So, since I did like the lotus seed filling so much, I decided to get some lotus seeds and see what I could come up with. Luckily for me, lotus seeds and other ingredients considered ‘exotic’ in the west, are quite easily available here. Now that I had my core ingredient, I had to think of something to do with it. I was sure I wanted something sweet, and since its navratras, I decided to make ladoos, since I could also use it as offertory. I’m quite pleased with how my little experiment turned out, though I can’t say it has a flavor profile that would be universally appreciated. But, it’s your palette and your kitchen so I’ll let you decide. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Happy experimenting 🙂
- Dried lotus seeds- 250 grams
- Ghee/clarified butter- ¼ cup
- Sugar- ½ cup (more, if you like it sweeter)
- Cardamom/Elaichi powder- ½ tsp
- Soak the lotus seeds in water for 4-6 hours or overnight.
- The seeds will soften after they’ve been soaking. Split each seed in half and remove and discard the greenish core, as it’s bitter. You should be able to break open the seeds easily with your hands but if you come across a few stubborn ones, lightly pound with a pestle or use a knife.
- Once you’re done removing the centre from all the seeds, boil the seeds in water until very soft.
- Drain the water and in a food processor or blender, process the seeds until you get a fine paste (add water as necessary, just not too much).
- Heat ghee in a pan, add the lotus seed paste and fry on a low-medium heat, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. After a few minutes, add the cardamom powder and sugar and cook till the sugar has dissolved.
- Cool the mixture and shape into ladoos.
*You can add raisins, nuts and seeds if you like.
*The ladoos are best consumed fresh. They tend to dry out quickly (which doesn’t really alter the taste, just the texture) so keep them covered at all times.
*You can easily find lotus seeds in a Chinese/Oriental store.