At this time of year, lakes and ponds around China are filled with pink and white flowers and big green leaves. The lotus flower symbolizes purity and nobility since it rises above the mud in which it is rooted.
Actually, lotus is also part of China's culinary tradition and considered very healthful. Petals, seeds, stems, root and leaves are all edible. Roots and seeds are among the favorite summer ingredients, and they are also used in the food therapy of traditional Chinese medicine. The pistil, stems and other parts are also used in TCM.
Lotus is considered a "cold" (yin energy) food in TCM and is recommended in summer to balance yang ("hot") energy. From August to mid-September, when summer changes to autumn, eating lotus is recommended.
"After a hot and humid July, there's plenty of heat with dampness in the body. Lotus, especially the seeds and leaves, dispel dampness and clear heat," says local dietician Fu Kang.
Lotus root is very popular in kitchens throughout China due to its versatility, which gives a chef plenty of space for creation, according to Wayne Wang, chef de cuisine at Si Ji Xuan restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai.
"The versatility comes through in its texture. It's one of a few ingredients showing more than three different textures when cooked differently," says Gu Guoxin, sous chef at Dragon Phoenix in the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
If served raw as a vegetable, it has a crunchy and refreshing texture. After cooking, it can be crispy, soft, starchy or glutinous, depending on the variety of lotus and cooking style.