Chinese water chestnuts, most commonly known as water chestnuts, are not nuts. They are an aquatic root vegetable that grows in the mud.
They're small in size and round. Water chestnuts can be eaten raw, par-boiled, grilled or pickled. I usually par-boil them and sauté them with other ingredients. The white flesh is crisp and adds a nice balance of texture to a lot of dishes.
In the past I've received questions about what water chestnuts look like. I realized I had never posted pictures of them. Hopefully this will inspire you to try them fresh!
Little reminder on how to cook water chestnuts:
Wash the chestnuts in cold water and then soak them in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes. Soaking them softens the shell.
With a paring knife, make a small criss-cross cut at the root of each water chestnut. Make sure the incision is not too deep so as not to cut the flesh of the chestnut.
Place the chestnuts in a pot and cover them with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool. As soon as they are not too hot to handle, shell the water chestnuts, then slice them.
I buy them at the Asian market. They cost $1.50 per pound. If you can't find the fresh version, you can always use canned water chestnuts or jicama (but it's slightly less crunchy).
Don't get them confused with regular French chestnuts, which have a soft, starchy texture and are usually used for making desserts.
However you use water chestnuts, they'll add a crunchy bite to your dish. Plus they're low in calories and gluten free.