Resembling a chestnut, although its shape is more symmetrical, the water chestnut is the underwater corm of a variety of water grass. A papery skin in shades of brown peels away to reveal a densely textured, white ‘nut’, slightly sweet and crisp to the tooth. The greatest appeal is that water chestnuts retain their texture when cooked. Featured in savory as well as sweet dishes throughout China and South East Asia.
Although it is most commonly associated with Chinese cooking, it is now gaining in popularity as a cooking ingredient in many different ethnic meals. Originating in Southeast Asia, water chestnuts are the roots of an aquatic plant that grows in freshwater ponds, marshes and lakes, and in slow-moving rivers and streams. Currently, water chestnuts are grown in Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand as well as in Australia. When harvesting water chestnuts, much labor is involved.
It is a rush-like plant grown in ponds for its round corms or tubers , whose chestnut brown skin color together with the chestnutty flavor and texture of the white flesh, give rise to the name “water chestnut.”