HEARTY & HEALTHY FOOD
Despite the fact they are called water chestnuts typically speaking they are not nuts at all, they are aquatic in nature and are tuber vegetables which grow in paddy fields, shallow lakes, ponds and marshes, while chestnuts also known as tree chestnuts grow on chestnut trees and are very common in united states, several parts of Asia and Europe on the whole. Most nuts such as almonds, cashew nuts, and walnuts are botanically defined as seeds rather than fruits but a handful of tree nuts like hazelnuts and chestnuts are regarded as fruits.
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Water chestnuts also called shingada in India, have been found growing in south-east Asia, Australia, Africa and many Pacific islands as well for a long time now and it has been introduced to and inducted into our culinary uses in some really interesting ways and forms. Besides the fact that these water chestnuts have a lot of potential health benefits to offer us they are easy to adapt to and modify into our recipes on a global level from Indian to Italian and from Mexican to Malaysian as well.
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Singhara as we know water chestnuts in India, have however not gained a lot of popularity in most of our menus be it home or commercial while we do at times involve it in some Asian or Chinese and Thai recipes most commonly. We get them with a coating of green covering and another variety as well with a ash black coating as well which is peelable to enjoy the goodness inside.
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Water chestnuts are not only available fresh these days but also in tins and cans preserved in the brine solution, while some also do it in pickled version and some also process it into flour form as we know it as Singhare ka Atta – water chestnut flour which can be used in a number of ways too.
“Singhara or Water Chestnuts are a great choice to add to our meals for the crunch and unique texture with a juicy mouthfeel and satiety value. it is easy to adapt into our popular Indian recipes like Chaats, dahi bhallas, upma, aloo ki subzi and more with a tadka of spice and a tart of tang”- Chef Kaviraj.
Here are a few Health Benefits of Water Chestnuts or Singhara:
1. Water chestnuts are an excellent source of nutrients and antioxidants.
2. Water chestnut consumption can also help reduce free radical movements in our body and lower blood pressure as well.
3. Water chestnuts are really good for our hair growth and development.
4. Water chestnuts are also effective in the treatment of several urinary infections.
5. Water chestnut powder mixed with lemon juice helps eczema if applied regularly.
6. Water chestnuts are an excellent food towards creating a healthy lifestyle and a good diet.
7. Water chestnuts serve as a great coolant to our bodies.
8. Water chestnut powder is also great to eliminate cough.
9. Water chestnuts are also a good source of potassium, vitamin B-6, manganese, copper and riboflavin.
10. Water chestnuts also help in curing indigestion and nausea.
Here are a few Culinary Uses of Water Chestnuts or Singhara:
1. While most of us enjoy our Singhara fresh and crunchy as it is but it can be used in several ways like adding it to chaat in combination with sprouts, onion, tomatoes, mint and coriander with our tamarind chutney etc it is a nice variation.
2. Singhara goes well into soups as well like broths, clear soups, puree soups and also as an added nutrient value into even the regular soups which we prepare. Water chestnut with mushroom cream soup, spinach and water chestnut clear soup, broccoli and water chestnut soup with roasted almond dumplings.
3. Water chestnuts are more often found in Chinese recipes adding it to the wok with varied colours and textures a light soy or chilli sauce with some garlic, chillies and a dash of honey and sesame does a good choice, besides it also goes well with marinated boneless chicken, with prawns, and braised fish with hot pepper water chestnut sauce!
4. Thai cuisine too has involved it in a number of ways from adding to a piping hot n spicy Thai veg/chicken soup laced with coconut milk and galangal/ lemongrass a dash of Thai curry paste and a few select veggies. Adding it to Phad Thai noodles, Thai style stir fry, into the Thai red/green/yellow curries and even to the steamed jasmine rice adds a nice crunch to it.
5. Speaking about how to use it in Indian recipes or a desi andaz with Singhara I enjoyed doing it in a number of ways like a tomato dhaniya Singhara shorba, Lasooni palak singhare ki subzi, makhana and Singhara korma, Singhara atta and whole wheat flour parathas stuffed with soy mattar ka keema, Singhara and cheese stuffed malai kofta, singhare aur methi gajar wala dum pulao, singhare ki kheer, brown rice aur singhare ki phirni, and of course, the singhare ke halwa or meetha is a true delight.
6. For fusion lovers there is a lot to explore and I’m sure you would love my ideas and innovations! Spinach- cheese and water chestnut ravioli served with sun-dried tomato and basil pesto, chicken mince and water chestnut lasagne layered with makhani Arabiata sauce! Water chestnut macaroni and sausage bake with fresh herbs and a dash of chilli flakes in pink sauce, trying it in a Filipino style add it to the favourite Panset – made with rice noodles, veggies and a light dash of soy and garlic. The desi version talks of doing a makkai aur singhare ka cheesy tava pulao served with mooli boondi ka Tadkewala raita. Here are a few simple-easy to make a global variety of recipes with water chestnuts:
Recipe-1] HERBED WATER CHESTNUT SOUP
Recipe-2] THAI STYLE WATER CHESTNUT & CHICKEN CURRY
Recipe-3] STIR FRIED WATER CHESTNUTS IN HOT CHILI SAUCE
Recipe- 4] MASALEDAAR WATER CHESTNUT WOK PULAO
Recipe-5] ON A SWEET NOTE WITH WATER CHESTNUTS
Recipe- 6] WATER CHESTNUTS KA HALWA
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About the author
Dr. Kaviraj Khialani – celebrity master chef - is a Mumbai-based author, writer, academician, food –health-lifestyle coach, mentor & consultant.
He is specialized in over 33 International Cuisines & has worked with brands like the Taj Group of Hotels, Kuwait Airways to name a few. Chef Kaviraj has been awarded several Global and National Awards for his outstanding performance and achievements in his chosen field. He has been featured on Star Plus and Colors Television on several food shows as well.