Phool makhana, also known simply as makhana, are common in Chinese, Japanese and south Indian cuisine. Phool makhana are also sometimes called fox nuts or lotus seeds. They can be eaten roasted whole as a snack; made into a flour to make rotis; or stewed in milk or spices to make a dessert, or a curry. Phool makhana have a light nutty flavor, similar to that of chestnuts.
Preparing Phool Makhana
Phool makhana are commonly found in markets dried, and need to be soaked before they can be eaten. The nuts are often sold whole, and the color of the peels determines the flavor of the nuts. Brown-colored seeds are fully ripe seeds, which must be cracked in half before they can be eaten, to remove the bitter germ inside. White lotus seeds are harvested before they are fully mature, and the nuts are kept whole, as the germ is removed using a needle. Fresh nuts, green in color, can be eaten by cracking open the green seed coat. Depending on your use of phool makhana, you can use whole or halved nuts.
Phool makhana are often roasted whole until crispy and puffy. They are then seasoned to make a nutritious and flavorful snack. Seasonings most commonly used include cumin, garlic and chili. Whole or halved nuts can also be stewed and added to traditional Indian curries, used in much the same manner as chickpeas. Whole nuts are also used as a soup ingredient in Chinese and Japanese cooking, less for their flavor than to add substance and for their high nutrient content. You can use frozen or dried nuts to make savory phool makhana dishes, but dried nuts need to be soaked until the nuts are soft before they can be used.
Kheer is a sweet, milk-based dessert soup eaten in India. Whole phool makhana nuts are soaked, then boiled in milk, sugar, cardamom and assorted nuts, like almonds and cashews, to create this soup. Adding a pinch of saffron seasons the soup and gives it pale golden color. Whole phool makhana nuts are also boiled in simple syrup while fresh to make crystallized lotus seeds, which are eaten as a snack in Chinese culture. Whole, soaked, cooked nuts can also be ground into a paste to make a filling for Chinese dessert or breakfast buns.
Other Uses and Storage
Phool makhana can be ground into a fine powder, to make a natural thickener, for soups and curries. This powder is also used to make makhana roti, served alongside traditional south Indian curries. You can make your own phool makhana flour by grinding the nuts into a powder with a spice grinder, or you can purchase packets of the flour in Indian and Chinese grocery stores. Store the dried whole nuts in a sealed, airtight plastic bag or container. Fresh seeds can be kept in the fridge, covered, for 1 or 2 weeks.
- Chettinad Kitchen: Food and Flavors From South India; Alamelu Vairavan
- Archana's Kitchen: Phool Makhana (Healthy Roasted Lotus Seed Snacks)
- Serious Eats: Light and Tender Chinese Lotus Seed Buns
- Tarladalal.com: Lotus Seed Glossary
- Photo Credit Tung Ching Lui/iStock/Getty Images
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