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In the core of the lotus seed is a green embryo called lian zi xin (heart of the lotus seed). This is particularly bitter and is usually removed before eating the "nut". In TCM these are considered an especially cooling food, good for the heart and for treating diarrhea perhaps due to the anti-spasmodic effects of the alkaloid chemicals present.

The huge lily pads (he ye) of the lotus plant also have culinary uses; typically they are not eaten but used to encase rice mixtures for steaming to produce he ye bao fan.

All manner of ingredients can be incorporated into the rice mixture - Chinese sausage, shrimps, chicken, pork, mushrooms, ginger etc. Sweet versions can also be made. Even the stamens of the lily flowers can be utilized and are used to make lianhua cha, a herbal tea.

Finally, the dried seed heads look beautiful in dried flower arrangements!

This nutrition-related column is written by Nina Lenton, a qualified dietitian living and working in Beijing. Contact her at nina_lenton@hotmail.com.

(China Daily June 12, 2008)

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