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Mar 31

Health Foods A-Z: Water Chestnut

Water chestnut or Singhada is a crunchy, juicy fruit of the Trapa plant. In India, you can find these sold with other vegetables. I remember walking past mounds of these green singharas looking beautiful. Since they are only available for 2-3 months in a year, they have not gained the popularity they deserve. Not only are these fruits very tasty, they have also been found to have medicinal and ayurvedic properties.

The water chestnut I am talking about is quite different from the water chestnut used in Chinese food. That is a different vegetable called Eleocharis dulcis. Its stems are tube-shaped and leafless. The small, rounded corms have a crisp white flesh and can be eaten raw, slightly boiled, or grilled, and are often pickled. They are unusual because they remain crisp even after cooking. They are used to make dim sums, or added with chowmein, and in entrees.

They have a thick, green peel and the white crunchy, juicy seed is the edible part. The fruits can be boiled or roasted. They are even ground into flour and used to make batter for deep frying or as a thickener. It is also used for religious rituals and had as part of a Hindu ‘phalahar diet’. When raw, the fruits are juicy and crisp. Cooking makes the flesh soft but it still remains crunchy.

The nutritive value of water chestnuts includes a good amount of minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphate, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, sodium and potassium. They have about 16% starch and 2% protein. They are sweet, have astringent, cooling and tonic properties.

Water chestnut is found in tropical, sub tropical and temperate climates. They are found in Southern Europe, Asia and Africa. They were also introduced artificially to the US. The Trampa plant grows in slow moving rivers, lakes, swamps, ponds.

I have memories of these from India, where I would munch on raw singhara as a snack. I loved the cooling effect they had on me and the crunchy and juicy texture was delicious. They are great after refrigerating for a few hours. They would rarely survive beyond the peeling process 😉 As I mentioned, a lot of people have water chestnuts and various preparations made from water chestnuts during their fruit-only diets (a lot of fasting rituals in India call for these diets). The recipe I have provided below is for a snack that is great for evenings or can be had with a meal.

Ingredients

15-20 water chestnuts (peeled and cut in half)

1/2 tsp shredded ginger

1/2 tsp shredded garlic

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilly powder

1 tsp chat masala

Salt to taste

2 tsp oil

Juice of half a lemon to garnish
Method
Wash and peel the water chestnut. Cut them in half and boil until half cooked. Drain the excess water.
Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic. Saute for a few seconds. Add the water chestnuts, coriander powder, chilly powder, turmeric powder, chat masala, salt and mix well. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and garnish with lemon juice. The snack is ready to serve.
If you like it to be more crunchy, you can skip the boiling. Since these can be eaten raw, it does not matter how well cooked it is. Just make sure the masalas and the ginger garlic are cooked. That’s it! Serve hot!
This post is part of a series on health foods. I have previously written about Avocado, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Dates, Eggs, Fennel, Green chickpeas or chholiya, Honey, Iceberg lettuce, Jackfruit, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Milk, Nectarine, Olives, Peas, the alphabet Q, Radish, Spinach, Tomato, the letter U and Vinegar.

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