Water plants are a mainstay in Asian cooking, but they are not as well-known in many Western countries. Most water plants grow along the edge of water bodies, like the water chestnut, or in shallow areas of water, like the lotus root. Many of them can also be grown at home in a water garden. Water plants are most often used in soups, salads or stir-fry. They are quick to prepare and provide a tasty alternative to traditional vegetables.
Chill the water chestnuts immediately after they are harvested to keep them from perishing before you are ready to cook them.
Wash the water chestnuts to remove any dirt. Use a knife to score the skin with an "X." Boil them for three minutes and then use a fork to remove the skin, which should come off easily.
Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the boiling water to keep the water chestnuts from turning brown. Boil for another five minutes, then set them aside to prepare your other vegetables.
Peel the skin from the lotus root and slice it into ¼-inch slices. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp. of vinegar to preserve the color of your lotus during cooking. Boil the lotus root for a few minutes, if you are using it in salads, to remove the bitterness but also keep it crunchy. Cook it longer if you are adding it to soup or stir-fry.
Chop up the leaves and stems of the water spinach. Remove any large, tough stems. Cook the water spinach with oil in a wok until the leaves wilt. The stems should remain crunchy. You can also add mirin, ginger or garlic for extra taste.
Remove yellowed leaves and thicker stalks from watercress. Sprigs can be added to salads or thrown into soups.
Taste the leaves of your chameleon plants to be sure of how strong the flavor is. Use it as a garnish in your dishes. You can also toss it with wasabi vinaigrette to serve over watercress.
Add the water vegetables to your stir-fry, salad or soup recipe once they are prepared.