There are certain dishes that are had occasionally - lotus stem or kamal kakdi or bhein (as we Punjabis call them!) is one of them. My granny used to make bhein - those are my earliest and most enduring memories of this unique vegetable.
Bhein is crunchy, and has a delicate flavour. For centuries, the lotus stem has had a special place in Asian and Oriental regions, especially in Indian, Chinese and Japanese cuisines. I discovered this in China, where the vegetable was used in salads, soups and noodles.
Not only are the bhein exotic, they are really healthy too! It has a moderate amount of calories and is a good source of dietary fibre. The fiber, together with slow digesting complex carbohydrates in the vegetable help reduce blood cholesterol, sugar, body weight and constipation. It is also a good source of vitamin C, while having moderate levels of some of valuable B-complex group of vitamins, It also provides healthy amounts of some vital minerals like copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and manganese.
I always had this impression that this vegetable is extremely difficult to clean and then make. Since the stem grows underwater in mud and has symmetrically arranged air canals (holes) traversing along the length, an ingress of mud does happen when the stem is extracted.
So Neeti and I carefully peeled the stems and sliced them. We then boiled them for over 15 minutes on high heat and then drained the slices in cold running water to ensure that mud is extracted.
Then Neeti took charge - she prepared a thick curry base of sauteed onions and tomatoes with spices in which the crunchy sweet slices of bhein were added! These cooked away for over 30-45 minutes on low heat till the bhein got cooked just right, retaining their crunchiness!
We had the delectable bhein that Neeti had prepared with sarson ka saag - a canned pack that was seasoned alongwith moong dal, chapatis and fresh onions with line - a pukka Punjabi dinner!
Thanks for the lovely bhein, Neeti!