I saw this very unusual thing at my Asian market. I first thought it was some kind of jewelry, but it's actually a water chestnut. It looks for all the world like a bull's head with horns. The outer shell is very hard, and plastic feeling. The clerk said they're very good eaten roasted as a snack.
I apologize in advance for the website link, but it has a really good picture of these things, if you sroll down a ways. Just ignore the attempts at humor!
I first saw these last fall on the SWc of Mott/Canal ...
(you know, the corner of this summer's fabled (at least to me) mangosteen siteings).
Looking like teeny, black desiccated/cryo-vaced bats ("sous vide"??, I'm filing as you read),
I was intrigued and inquired ...
... "STUPID F*CK, GO WAY" ...
encumbered by sobriety, no snappy rejoinder, I left, curiosity piqued.
Bladholm sez "two horned water caltrop".
My sources say ...
"tastes like water chestnut"
"we don't boil"
"eat when weather get cold"
"good for lungs"
ask for "lingjao" (ling j-ow)
I bought a bag of water caltrops on Saturday, and am eating them tonight.
I'm a good Web detective but can find no instructions, beyond the need to cook them to eliminate toxins. So what I've done is dump a clattering three dozen of the black, hard-shelled, horned fruit into a pot of boiling water for five minutes, fished them out with a strainer, let them cool, smashed them open with the flat of my cleaver, and dug into them with a simple pointed steel carrot peeler. I tried using an oyster fork and a quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon, too, but they failed.
The meat is like coconut flesh, and like coconut meat, the caltrop's has a thin, dark parchmentlike layer between it and the caltrop shell. But the caltrop flesh is more dry than coconut, and lacks coconut's oiliness. Caltrop meat has a pleasantly clean, grainy mouthfeel that's just a little bit sweet and has a finish vaguely like that of a fresh oyster, even though there's nothing shellfish-like about the caltrop.
I hope five minutes was enough time to ward off the toxins, because I've smashed and dug and eaten my way through a lot of of these, and that's only a third of my bagful. If I don't post tomorrow, well, thanks for Chowhound, Jim, it's been a privilege to write my last words right here.
re: Heidi Claire
I went to the same market yesterday to look for them and actually buy some this time, and the clerk said he'd never heard of such a thing! We clearly had a communication problem, but I was being to wonder if I'd only conjured these lovely peculiars.
Next time I'll buy some, for sure!