Can I eat them raw and other Chinese water chestnut questions
I bought some fresh water chestnuts and despite a lot of googling I'm not clear if I can just peal and eat. It seems that they need to be boiled or steamed first ... or not?
While this site ... which has a very cool picture of an entire water chestnut, uh, plant ... says that they can be eaten raw they issue this warning ...
"uncooked fresh water chestnuts can pass on Fasciolopsiasis, an intestinal infection caused by parasitic flukes (worms)."
Some sites even suggest blanching canned water chestnuts to freshen the flavor. Cooks Thesaurus suggest if using canned water chestnuts it might just be better to used canned lily root which has more flavor
I already found out too late that I should have stored them in the fridge, but after a few days, in a bowl they still seem fine. One site said to sniff and if there is a sour smell, toss.
While looking around for eating info it seems that there are different types of canned water chestnuts ... some are pickled. Are these any good? Anything to keep an eye out for?
What about dried water chestnuts? How are these used?
There were also some ideas for using water chestnuts that I never considered before. This site suggests serving them on mint leaves as palate refreshers. They also have a recipe for potato salad with water chestnuts which seems like a good idea.
Wrapping them in bacon and baking seems to be popular and the chow digest ups the ante by with a suggestion to wrap in candied bacon ... it involves brown sugar, ground mustard, ground chipotle pepper, cumin, black pepper, and onion powder ... sounds amazing.
General water chestnut info
You could get Fasciolopsiasis from ingesting the eggs, which, if the are present, are on the brown skin of the water chestnut. In Asia, some cultures peel them using their teeth, and contract it that way. Peeling (no teeth:-) and rinsing them should render them completely safe to eat raw. And yes, after you have them fresh, the canned ones no longer seem worth eating.
If you are really paranoid or anal, you could blanch them quickly after peeling.
Don't be surprised if some of the chestnuts are mushy or discolored when you peal them. I try to pick solid ones, but always get a few that are past it. Peeling water chestnuts is a good test for your knife and knife skills. I prefer a very sharp Scandinavian style (wide bevel) utility/wood carving knife.
I wash them before peeling, and immerse them in water after. I also toss or cut off any bad parts. I haven't read of the parasite problem before, but sticking with solid white flesh may minimize this problem.
As the poster “Piglet” has stated, the fresh water-chestnuts can be eaten fresh right after peeling or cooked as an ingredient in other dishes.
They can be sauté with other vegetables or used in any number of Chinese recipes. We usually like to add them as an ingredient for a simple steamed chopped pork dish. We add to the chopped ground pork the chopped up fresh water-chestnuts (after peeling), chopped up black mushrooms (the dried ones or fresh ones; throw away the stems), chopped up fresh shrimp (5 or 6 shrimp is sufficient), add a beaten egg, and season with a number of Chinese seasonings (cornstarch, soy sauce, garlic, onion, pinch of MSG, red hot pepper, and oyster sauce) and after mixing (chop all the ingredients together with a Chinese cleaver in a manner called “march chopping”), steam the pork mixture in a plate with a deep brim (there will be a lot of liquid) for the appropriate time.
After you have eaten fresh water-chestnuts, you will never use canned water-chestnuts again. The texture and flavor difference is a night and day difference. In all these years our family (we are an Asian family) has never bought canned water chestnuts.
And if you have eaten the more authentic dishes in any of the Chinatowns in America, you will notice that water-chestnuts are rarely encountered in the more authentic Chinese dishes, since fresh water-chestnuts are a difficult ingredient to use in the restaurant, since once peeled (labor intensive to peel also), they do not keep very long in terms of maintaining their texture and flavor. Usually once you peel the water-chestnuts, you should use them immediately, but if you are not planning to use it immediately, you should immerse the peeled water-chestnuts in water until needed, but don’t wait too long.
Unfortunately, the canned water-chestnuts are ubiquitous in many of the dishes at the Chinese-American restaurants in America.
We have not used the pickled water chestnuts nor the dried ones, but hopefully someone else with more knowledge about water chestnuts can answer those questions.
Now that you have posted about eating water chestnuts, since we just happen to have bought half a pound of fresh water chestnuts this afternoon, we are going to peel a couple of water chestnuts now and just eat them raw. It’s a wonderful snack with not too many calories and with a very nice crunchy texture and a sweet water chestnut flavor.