Lotus Root Chips with Sea Salt and Shichimi Togarashi, and Meeting Wolves

Savory Recipes, Winter • 12 Feb 2015

We could tell that snow was in the forecast by watching the grey, hazy dawn light outside our tiny bedroom skylight. Flakes were not yet falling, but the light quality was telltale. I watched and waited for those first few timid fluttering movements, grey and silver and white, hesitantly floating from the heavens, a thing of beauty and stillness and implacability.

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The wind roared and cursed outside our front door, our feet tensing up when our bare toes touched the icy cold floor. Extra protective layers were imperative and I pack myself into tights, jeans, slightly absurd knee socks, an awkward baggy sweatshirt and a suffocating bulky scarf. My son looked like a marshmallow in his snow clothes, his body round, soft, warm and protected; his exposed nose destined to redden like a ripe strawberry in the cold air.

Rushing to get out the door, I quickly shoved our belongings into my dirt-incrusted car and we hit the road. As we crept along the parkway, heading north, the snow became steady; my little car scuttled hither and thither toward our destination, the South Salem Wolf Conservation Center. Frost streaked across the window as my tires cut through the bold, pernicious snow. Tucked away in our warm car, we watched as the flakes, understated at first, became increasingly aggressive.

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The morning was frozen, the cold air providing a bitter jolt. We arrived at the wolf preserve no worse for the wear, and made our way up to our gentle and passionate tour guide Alex, who educated the adults and children on the plight of the beleaguered animal, and buttered up the kids by displaying baby pictures of the wolves we were about to meet.

Sitting on snow covered bleachers, the group watched the wolves from behind a protective chain link fence. They danced for us, eager for perform for a few tasty morsels; Alex threw a few treats over the fence and they leapt into the air gracefully and rhythmically. After their snack the three sibling-wolves walked along the precipice of the fence; their piercing sea-foam blue and green eyes seared and they flirted with us dangerously, drawing us in with their otherworldly beauty and a provocative edge of fear. It is obvious while these stately, magnificent and dangerous creatures feature so prominently in folklore and legend.

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Upon arriving at home, we were hungry and cold and voluntarily housebound, which for my son and I means creamy hot cocoa and crispy snacks. Our sweet drink/salty snack ritual isn’t necessarily unique cold-weather tradition, but for us, it is a worthy quotidian observance. On this day we would browse through our wolf photos and revel in our snack-time, sheltering our raw skin from the cold.

The day felt too lofty for popcorn. I turned to my refrigerator, excavating a duo of dirt-smeared, earthen lotus roots that I had been hoarding for a special afternoon. Cut into paper-thin slices, the pinkish root resembles delicate lace or baroque snowflakes. They are almost too sensually magnificent to eat; nature really is a virtuous artisan.

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Slick vegetable oil vigorously bounces off the sides of my cavernous wok, bubbles springing to the surface. Handfuls of brazenly beautiful lotus root slices fly into perilously hot oil and expeditiously cook until deeply golden and crisp. A smattering of sea salt, a pinch of pungent garlic salt and a sprinkling of spicy shichimi togarashi, a spicy Japanese condiment comprised of chili and other spices, make for a snack that resembles a potato chip in crunch and composition. Stubborn oil catches in the dry cracks of our fingers, disobedient salt sticking to our burning lips, all giving way to the tenacious togarashi, which nips at our tongue tips. The chips are earthy and nutty with a subtle sweetness. We down them rapidly while sipping steaming cups of cocoa and watching flakes fall outside our window, flakes that look remarkably like our afternoon snack.

Lotus Root Chips with Sea Salt and Shichimi Togarashi
1 pound lotus root
1 lemon, juiced
Vegetable oil for frying
1 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi

1. Peel and rinse the lotus root. Slice into 1/8-inch to ¼-inch thick slices using a very sharp knife or a mandolin. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold water. Add the lemon juice and the sliced lotus root.

2. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. In a small bowl, mix sea salt, garlic salt and shichimi togarashi.

3. Heat oil in wok or a heavy bottomed saucepan until hot, about 350 degrees. Drop in one slice of lotus root to see if the oil is ready. Working in batches, dry lotus root slices in paper towels and fry until golden on both sides.

4. Remove cooked chips with a slotted spoon and place on lined baking sheet. Season with salt mixture. Store in an airtight container or eat immediately.

One Response

  1. Mira

    These look too good…. I would eat them all.

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