**Gu’s: an unassuming Szechuan joint on Buford Highway that serves many a dish teeming with peppercorn and chili. The stuff of my wildest food dreams. Their kung pao lotus root is incredible (among other dishes) and 100% worth the longish drive. When couch potato fever hits me in the middle of intense Szechuan withdrawals, however (as it often does), I need my fix. This is an attempt at recreating Gu’s dish, and I’m giving myself a big, painful slap on the back: the recipe makes some grade A product.
Fresh lotus root is always better when you can find it, of course, but using frozen works unusually well. I used frozen this time, and the slices turned out crispy and, well, pretty damn fresh tasting.
**2017 update: Gu’s fecked off from Buford Highway and opened a ridiculously expensive space in Krog Street Market ($14 for some damn lotus root!!!)
Kung Pao Lotus Root
- 12 oz lotus root
- 7 dried red chilis
- 1/3 c roasted peanuts
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 large leek, white/light green parts only
- 2 scallions, white bits minced and green bits sliced
- 3 tbs coconut oil
- 1 tbs ginger
- 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorn, coarsely ground
- 1/3 c water
- 1 tbs chinkiang vinegar
- 1 tbs broad bean chili paste
- 1 tbs arrowroot powder
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tsp sweetener of choice (sugar, maple syrup, stevia (follow stevia measurements though, don’t use an actual teaspoon of that stuff))
The prep takes the longest amount of time: if you’re working with frozen lotus root, place the slices in a bowl of room temperature water mixed with 2 tsp of salt. Let the lotus thaw and then dump the slices on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and press as much water out of the lotus as you can.
For those wondering what the hell lotus root is
Mince the garlic, scallion whites, and ginger. Clean the leek thoroughly (those dirty bastards) and thinly slice the white and light green parts. Slice the celery stalk diagonally. Mix the soy sauce, broad bean paste, arrow root powder, water, and sweetener in a bowl.
Coarsely grind the peppercorn with a mortar and pestle, or use a spice grinder if your kitchen lacks such archaic kitchen tools. Don’t have either of those? Use a hammer or other equally homicidal object. Google can give you suggestions.
So many tidbits to keep track of
The cooking part is quick: add 2 tbs coconut oil to the wok on medium high heat. Fry the leeks and celery until crispy, about 2 minutes. Throw in the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites, and fry for 30 seconds. Add the dried chilies and peanuts and toss for 30 additional seconds.
Now add the last tbs of oil and throw in the lotus root. Let them fry for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they get crispy. Add the peppercorn, fry for 30 seconds. Add the sauce mixture and toss everything in the wok for 15-20 seconds. Now turn off the heat and add the green scallions.
Serve immediately. IMMEDIATELY GOD DAMN IT.
Food porn at its…porniest
Notes & Tips:
- For all you fellow Trypophobes, lotus root will repulse and terrify you. This dish provides two important things: delicious, spicy food and a healthy dose of aversion therapy. Tell that $300 per hour Psychotherapist to bugger off.
- Prep everything the night before or the morning of. I minced, sliced, and premixed (the sauce) the night before I actually assembled the dish, so I only had to wait an excruciating 10 minutes for the dish to be guzzle-ready the following evening.
- Lotus root can be found in most Asian markets and some farmer’s markets. Check out the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market if you’re an ATLien. I found frozen lotus root at Patel Brothers for a mere 99 CENTS. Suck it, Dollar Tree.
- Chinkiang vinegar and broad bean chili paste are available at any Asian market. I would question the validity of any Asian food store that didn’t stock them.
- Using anything other than a wok will compromise the quality of this dish. No substitutions. Do it. Go buy a wok. $20 at First Oriental Market. Get this too. You’ll be stir frying all your meals in no time.
***Originally posted 8/2014***