“Ew, this grosses me out,” my husband told me in an email with a link.
“What?” I couldn’t figure out what he meant. The link showed me a photo of patterns of holes in nature, like a honeycomb.
Holes. He was freaking out about the holes.
It has taken me into my middle-age to ever know or hear about this phobia of small holes, or trypophobia. Apparently this is a real thing with many people. When pressing my husband on his reason why, he explains that it is not so much the holes themselves but what could be inside the holes. Research at the Centre for Brain Science at the University of Essex uncovers that trypophobia triggers a fear of danger, specifically the brain is associating the image with something dangerous.
“Like polka dots?” I asked him. I mean, polka dots evoke images of girly baby clothes, cutesy birthday parties, 1950’s retro dresswear, right? I wondered if all the gifted girly clothes our two daughters have in their wardrobes may have triggered some fearful reaction in him. What is coming out of those holes in his mind? “No,” he explained, “polka dots are different.” And left it at that.
Since Eat and I have discussed this fear, I found other friends with the same fear. While I understand the trigger and underlying concern (who wants to be stung by a bunch of hornets, if looking innocently at their papery abode?), it doesn’t trigger any reaction for me to gaze at seed pods, honeycomb, or dot-like architectural patterns.
Good thing, or else I’d probably stay away from lotus root. I first encountered lotus root salad last year for Chinese New Year. It was months later when I found some fresh lotus root and decided to try to make the salad myself. This recipe is from my cousin-in-law’s nanny, who is a fabulous cook and has fed me some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten. There is nothing dangerous about this salad. It’s as simple as assembling a parboiled green bean salad.
While it can be eaten raw, young lotus root is usually preferred as the older root is a bit woody. If getting the older, the parboiling step is important to soften the fibrous consistency. Even with cooking, the overall consistency stays fairly crunchy. The taste is reminiscent of water chestnut and peas — neither of which I particularly care for, but it works for me in this embodiment for some reason.
To prepare the root, make sure to choose firm roots, without soft spots. The older the root, the darker brown the skin. Look for the younger roots for better taste and crunch. Peel it, slice it on the cross section to reveal the lace-like pattern inside (see? it’s all relative — “lace” not “OMG! HOLES!!!”), and briefly cook it before eating (see the details on the recipe). If using in a stir-fry, no need to parboil beforehand. Just cook as you would carrots. No danger here, just deliciousness.
One year ago: candied grapefruit peels
Three years ago: happy valentine’s day 2013
Four years ago: madeleines
Five years ago: golden beet latkes with smoked paprika sour cream
- Fresh lotus root, the whitest you can find, about 1¼ pounds (~600g)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar, divided (a few splashes for the soaking water and ⅓ cup for the dressing)
- water, to soak and to boil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (use 1 T, check for taste, and add more if you like)
- a pinch of salt
- cilantro, chopped
- green onions, chopped
- First, prepare a large bowl of cool water and a few splashes of rice vinegar. Set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.
- Meanwhile, peel the lotus root, trimming any brown spots.
- Cut the lotus root on the cross section into ⅛-inch wide slices and immediately place into bowl of water-vinegar to prevent discoloration.
- When the water is boiling, boil the lotus root slices for 4 to 5 minutes, remove and rinse with cold water.
- In the same manner, parboil the carrots for 1 minute, if you desire. I like the crunchy raw carrots, so I don't usually do this step.
- Transfer lotus root and carrots to large bowl.
- Mix rice vinegar and sugar to taste, add salt, stir to dissolve sugar and salt, and pour over the lotus roots and carrots. Mix well and transfer to serving bowl. There may be extra dressing at the bottom of the mixing bowl; that's okay, just leave it. Garnish with cilantro and green onions and serve immediately. This salad is best eaten the day of assembly. Store in the refrigerator.