Lotus Flower Nelumbo Nucifera: In this world but not of this world

We recently attended a dinner by the China Society where the Theme was Lotus. At dinner, there was a debate, what is the Chinese name of the lotus?  Is it lian hua or he hua?  According to this website, it is both lianhua (莲花)  and hehua (荷花). The word Lian sounds like “continuous”, which makes the lotus seed an auspicious symbol for continuous bearing of off-springs/sons whereas he sounds like “peace”.  

Back to the dinner comprising dishes with ingredients made of the lotus.

The appetiser was a lotus-root, pomelo salad, with a deep-fried yam vegetable/ lotus flower/ lotus seed .

Marinated Lotus root salad with lotus petal

The thinly sliced borito-marinated lotus root was crunchy and refreshing.

This was followed by a double-boiled lotus root soup stuffed with minced chicken. My mom, although not a cantonese loved to boil soup. One of her favourites was double-boiling the lotus-root soup which she claimed “removes toxin” from our bodies.  Why do you think Hong Kong men and women have such beautiful complexion despite the pollution. The secret, is not SKII, but double-boiled soup.

Doubled-boiled lotus root soup

My personal testimony to that was a certain time in my life, when I returned from my posting in Taipei, and my complexion could not adjust to the Singapore weather. Countless expensive facials just couldn’t help my skin.  Until someone reminded my mom of the magnificent power of the lotus-root soup.  Miraculously, my complexion cleared, and money saved from facials hence forth.

Cleaning off the mud from the root though, can put off anyone with the ambition of competing with Cleopatra and her milk bath for the silky complexion. Although I’m told that supermarkets in Singapore, have now provided that extra service of selling clean lotus roots.  When cutting the lotus root, there are sticky silk threads lingering from each slice.  A Chinese idiom, ǒu duàn sī lián (藕斷絲連’) captures this emotively: though a relationship is severed, the feelings linger.

Stir-fried Scallop with lotus seed and asparagus

Eight treasure fried rice wrapped with lotus leaf, topped with lotus seed

Even the lotus leaf is not spared. Here it is used as a wrap for the fried glutinous rice.  Topped with a lotus seed.

Fresh lotus seed is often sold in China and even Cambodia and Vietnam, with pods.  It has a powdery taste, and you must remove the germ in the centre, which has a bitter taste.  We eat the lotus seed to remove heatiness.  Too much of it causes “cold” so, its often eaten with red-bean soup.

The lotus leaf has an indescribable shape.  In Chinese gardens, one often spot windows with the distinct lotus shape.  In my water pot garden, when the lotus is flourishing, I can spend a long time meditating on the beauty of the lotus leaf shape.  If a water-droplet falls on the leaf, it runs into the centre, forming a lovely crystal ball.  (The other leaf shape that never fails to “mesmerise” me, is the papaya leaf.”

Lotus leaf in my garden

The lotus leaf is used in many cultures tracing back to Ancient Egyptians as a symbol of purity and spiritual enlightenment.  Ancient Egyptians claim that the lotus flower gave birth to the sun, and that the flower sinks into the water in the evening and emerges during daybreak.  This doesn’t seem to be the case of my lotus flower.  Although, it could be that the wind is so strong, that the petals rarely last for more than 2 days.

The lotus flower is the national flower of India.

The lotus leaf emerges from the muddy swamp untainted by the mud.  But I do notice that those without hardy stems, rot when it touches water. A reminder I take, to have a sprightly back-bone and not allow the pain and pleasures of this world distract me.  Be in this world, but not of this world. Sigh…

Lotus flower in my garden pot

Note the seed pot in the centre, which after the petals drop off, is harvested for lotus seeds.  Boiled lotus seeds are used in Chinese desserts, especially in the red bean soup.  The lotus

One of my favourite photos of a lotus flower from a website, which reminds me of the lotus ponds in Siem Reap.

Lotus bun and red bean soup with lotus seed

The Chinese bun on the left, is filled with black lotus paste.  I hesitate putting a picture, as the black gooey paste doesn’t look as appealing as it taste.  The filling of the lotus paste is made from lotus seeds.

Come, the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), the lotus paste is once again, a star highlight in Chinese custom – the mooncake pastry.

Legend has it, that during the “Yuan” dynasty, when Chinese wanted to overthrow the Mongolian rulers,  a successful revolt was coordinated during the Mid-Autumn festival,  15th day of the eighth lunar month.  Through secret messages hidden inside the mooncake pastry.  To this day, mooncakes are given as gifts during the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as the Moon-cake festival to remember the role played by this humble pastry.

Difference between water lily (Nymphaea) and lotus (Nelumbo)

Lotus is often mistaken for the water lily (of genus Nymphaea). Pls refer to my previous entry if you still have doubts. 🙂

  • Leaves of the water-lily rests on the surface of the water, while that of the lotus rises above water surface held up by a straight stem.
  • The water lily leaf has a notch on one side, whereas the lotus leaf is round and full.
  • The flower of the lotus has a distinct centre with a seed pod bearing lotus seeds.
  • Petals of the water lily seem sharper, whilst that of the lotus is slightly oval. (I’m not a botanist, so pls forgive my choice of words.)

Lotus flower in floral arrangement


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