Can you eat water lily?
To the Thai family Seehamongkol who runs Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, ordinary food and ordinary vegetables is nothing to show or talk about. To our foreign visitors, these daily-life vegetables and recipes are the treasures, hard to find among the tourist traps, and even harder to understand as farmers rarely speak English and so an encounter will remain a mystery to most tourists. Our combination of Thai villagers and a western biologist will ensure the encounter and make sure you understand what you experience. I still get surprises, almost every day, but so information accumulates. Last evening I was served a delicious Thai meal, but Ketsanee had something else, a new dish I had never seen before: ‘kang sai boa’ (water lily stalk soup).
Use the native Thai red water lily with a serrated leaf edge (Nymphaea pubescens syn. N. rubra, Nympheacea, the nomenclature is somewhat confused though). This is a plant entirely different from the Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera, Nelumbonaceae), which has leaves on stalks well above the surface of the water. The leaves of water lilies float on the surface. Lotus seeds and lotus rhizomes are edible too. Ketsanee’s parents used to grow the red water lily in their pond back in Roi-Et in Esan.
This is how you cook it:
1. Peel the outer epidermis of the stalk which is too chewy.
2. Chop the stalk in 3 cm long pieces. Take one handful per serving.
3. Boil in double volume of water until soft.
4. Pound the meat of one mackerel/serving in a mortar.
5. Add the fish, a pinch of sour tamarind pulp or sour tamarind leaves, chili, fish sauce and salt.
Ketsanee Seehamongkol & Eric Danell