Quite literally. It’s called a water chestnut because that’s where this vegetable is grown — in a watery bed. In fact, it is often a rotating crop in rice paddy fields in many Asian countries and Australia, particularly because it is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. It has been cultivated in China since ancient times. Most likely, you’ve tasted it if you noticed a crunchy tan-looking nut thing in your Chinese food. It’s used in many recipes for the crunch and mild, fresh taste so it blends well with the other flavors.
The water chestnut isn’t actually a nut, but the root corm of a marsh grass in the sedge family. When they are fresh, they do resemble the actual tree-grown chestnuts and have what is described as a “mildly sweet apple-coconut flavor”. Most of us obtain our water chestnuts from cans and some of this flavor has dissipated.
Like jicama, water chestnuts don’t get soft when they’re cooked, so they maintain that crisp crunch that works so well with stir-fried recipes. I love them in my broccoli beef or chicken stir-fries, but there are other ways to use them. The are a key ingredient in a Thai dessert dish called Rubies in Coconut Milk and in a Water Chestnut Cake that uses water chestnut flour, also called singoda flour. While I’d love to try this, the flour is entirely too high in carbohydrates to be effective in my meal plan, but if you’d like to give it a try, you can order it on-line from Amazon. Fortunately, I use the canned water chestnuts sparingly and a little goes a long way in a recipe.
Nutrition information for Water Chestnut 1/2 cup (62 grams)
Calories: 60 Fat: 0.0 Net Carbs: 13.0 g Protein: 1.0 g
Here are a couple of recipes from Skinny Girl that use water chestnuts:
My featured recipe is this simple to make and delicious appetizer. How can you go wrong with bacon and water chestnuts? The only caution is to not eat too many of them!
Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
8 fresh Water Chestnuts
3 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar Substitute
4 slices regular Bacon, cut in half
8 Toothpicks, use sturdy ones
Use warm water to rinse and drain the water chestnuts.
Put the soy sauce into a shallow dish and add the water chestnuts. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for about 3 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F.)
Put brown sugar substitute on a saucer. Roll each water chestnut in the brown sugar, then wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around it and secure with a toothpick. Roll each appetizer in the brown sugar mixture.
Put the wrapped chestnuts on a rack in a baking pan, then bake for 15 minutes, turn them over, then bake another 15 minutes, Baking them allows the bacon to cook thoroughly.
Makes 8 appetizers.
Nutrition Info per appetizer
Calories: 41.7 Fat: 2.8 g Net Carbs: 1.1 g Protein: 2.4 g
Tip: You can make these appetizers ahead of time and freeze until you are ready to cook them. Place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Top photo is from Wikimedia Commons and is used with permission – “Wasserkastanie 2”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons