Yesterday when I passed by one of my favorite cafes. The kid who seems to be the manager was out front rotating the lotus root soup. I waved to the kid and he motioned for me to come over. I did.
Lotus root soup is a specialty of this particular restaurant. They keep 4 giant clay jars out front where it is always cooking. Lotus root soup is made from the root of the lotus plant combined with water that is seasoned with pork bones and dried fruit, usually dates.
It is slow cooked in clay pots that are stacked inside of giant clay jars. The jars are fired with charcoal on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. They are kept with the tops locked unless pots are being added, removed or rotated. Charcoal is added through a small opening in the bottom of each large jar.
There are three levels of cast iron shelves in each giant jar. After the soup is made, it is stacked on the lower shelf. As it cooks, it is rotated toward the top rack. When a pot is sold, it is taken from the top shelf. There is a special tool used to grab and move the soup pots.
The first time I had lotus root soup I didn’t know what it was. I thought the lotus root must have been a bone of some kind. I drank the broth and didn’t try to eat the root until I saw other people eating it first. It was fairly firm and didn’t have a distinct flavor, though my Chinese friends say it is sweet.
Lotus root is supposed to have certain curative qualities, but like most things, I have my doubts.