This Is Not a Banana Stem Curry

At the top for easy access!

Well, I am confused! We’ve got the elusive banana stem, a substitute (aka lotus root) and now (in some comments) lotus stem, too.

When I saw that, initially I was thinking lotus root (actually a rhizome, I learned) and lotus stem were different parts of the same plant. A little further reading and I am still unsure — wiki states that the ‘rootlets’ are pickled — but here’s another source showing pickled lotus flower stalks!

Is a stalk the same as a stem? That makes sense — but what about a rootlet?? Baby root, yes? no?

To add to this confusion — I know the following, based solely on my own limited experience:

1. lotus root — which I have bought sliced and water-packed in Asian markets — looks like a big
sausage link when whole, when cooked is fairly bland, something between the texture of a potato and a water chestnut. I’ve seen it in Chinese restaurants, usually in a mixed veg dish such as “Buddah’s Delight”, and and also in Japanese cookbooks (where it is called renkon), stuffed and sliced.

See this informative post for more, and an excellent photo.

2. lotus stem — which I bought once in the Thai section of an Asian market, in a jar, pickled — it was thin, white, and as I recall, very vinegary, crunchy and fibrous. Not at all like the rather bland lotus root, and I have never seen it in a restaurant.

See this tasty-looking recipe with a great photo of the little babies — called ‘rootlets’ in the post. And check out that salad — with green jackfruit no less! Sounds interesting.

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can clear this up once and for all πŸ™‚ In the meantime, for this dish, I can vouch for the lotus root as seen in the photo further down in this post πŸ™‚

this is not a banana stem curry

One of the most appealing things about Nupur’s year-end recipe marathon is the chance to go back over old bookmarks. I am having a blast revisiting these, as well as old posts of my own — many of which I haven’t seen in years. Today I came across this old lotus root post of mine, and this tasty-looking recipe from Vini.

Ah, but just like dear Vini these days, some veggies are elusive πŸ™‚

For months, I wished and hoped for a green mango.
It took me nearly a year to find something close.

Fresh drumsticks are becoming more prevalent in the markets here,
but mostly I use frozen.

When I found breadfruit, it was canned (well,ok… jarred).

Banana stem is one of those elusive veggies. Oh, how I long to find one! But I can’t seem to get my hands on it — canned, frozen, or otherwise. When I ask for it in the stores, I get odd, sympathetic smiles in return, as if the storekeepers think I am mad… (oh, sure lady… banana stem? How about a nice banana flower!) Hmph πŸ˜‰


I also wanted to use this marathon as an opportunity to cook, as much as possible, from stores already on hand. Looking at these two old posts, and then looking into my veg. drawer, I had an inspiration — perhaps lotus root could substitute for banana stem!

Reading Vini’s excellent description of banana stem once more only confirmed the hunch — “porous, absorbs flavors, retains crunchiness….” — hmmm!
It might not taste exactly the same, but it just might work.

The experiment was a huge success. Take the cover off simmering lotus root and you get a wee wafting hint of potato, but this won’t fall apart on you as potato can. Lotus root retains much of its crunchy texture; all in all a very interesting little tuber. As for the mustard paste — I couldn’t begin to describe the aroma; and I couldn’t get enough. Tantalizingly pungent yes, but not overly so — tangy, heady, spicy-amazing — this reminded me why I appreciate having the time to cook from scratch.

And who would have thought tamarind would make the difference — I hardly had enough left for a decent photo with rice — I kept going back for ‘one more taste’.

I followed Vini’s recipe to the letter — the only exceptions being:

~ I did not soak the mustard/rice/chiles long enough. Rather than two hours or more — it was more like one hour — I was in a rush πŸ˜‰

~ I used rosematta rice as that was handy.

While the type of rice wasn’t specified, I imagine the short soaking time combined with the heartier rice made for the little pleasantly crunchy bits in the ground paste.

~ Obviously, I replaced the elusive banana stem with lotus root!

Here are a few pics; for the real recipe please visit A Whirl Of Aromas!

Vini dear, wherever you are, I hope you’re reading this so you’ll know just how much I loved this not-a-banana-stem curry πŸ™‚

not banana stem — lotus root — packed in water and available at asian groceries

my very own dried chilies!
some of the cayenne peppers I grew this summer

my dried chile doesn’t look as appealing as the store-bought!

how fantastically flavorful does this look! ground mustard, rice and dried chiles

cooking the chopped lotus root with seasonings, just after adding a bit of water

not banana stem curry, but it sure tasted great ~ thank you, Vini!


I love the ease and convenience of this, my current fav tamarind paste in a jar ~ when I don’t want to soak and squeeze this is what I turn to ~ what about you?


  1. Lavi said

    Your chilli’s look great!! I think you have to dry them more this summer, to make them look like store bought one’s.

    Curry looks Delicious!!

    Thank you Lavi πŸ™‚ Yes, this summer I think I’ll put them in the sun, or the oven! πŸ˜‰

  2. Nupur said

    I love this post! I think your dried chillies look way prettier than the store-bought ones. I know just what you mean about the off-beat vegetables. Lotus stem is something I have yet to try.

    About the tamarind, I tried this jarred tamarind paste (the very same brand) last month but just did not think it tasted the same as freshly soaked tamarind so I am back to the old stuff for now.

    No. the jarred tamarind is not as good Nupur — but it does come in handy when I’m in a hurry πŸ˜‰ You will love lotus root, I am sure!

  3. Chitchat said

    Lovely recipe which resembles banana stem a lot :):) Never tried as yet. You have a wonderful space with very interesting recipes.


    Thanks so much for your kind words, Chitchat! πŸ™‚

  4. Ramya said

    Linda , even I haunt the asian markets for banana stem like you.Does lotus root have that taste?I like the tamarind paste too,compared to the real thing the cost is a bit high.It does save time.You make your own dry chillies.Tussee great ho!

    Hi Ramya, I have never tasted a banana stem, so I don’t know if lotus root has the same taste but I would guess not. It doesn’t really have much taste of its own. Thanks for stopping! πŸ™‚

  5. indosungod said

    I love the way you write about finding foreign stuff πŸ™‚ I have seen banana stem in an international market here(mail it? πŸ™‚ ). Banana stems are supposed to be very nutritious and help in weight loss. I hated them back home when they were plentiful but now I tolerate them. DH adores them, now that you have reminded me I will look for them.

    Seriously ISG, you should see some of the looks I get shopping πŸ˜‰ Banana stem is one offer I may not be able to refuse! πŸ™‚

  6. Cynthia said

    I too made my own dried chili this past summer only I did not grow it myself πŸ™‚

    Happy Holidays!

    Happy holidays to you too, Cynthia! I bet you could grow some awesome chiles down there. Happy to see you! πŸ™‚

  7. Sowjanya said

    Linda, I love the banana stem in yogurt sauce (more-kootu) and I just said the same on banana stem juice. We dont get it here in TX.Never thought of using lotus stem. Does lotus stem hold the flavors well? I read that we have to use vinegar to soak them for a couple of minutes. Is that so?

    The sun-dried chilies look good.

    Hi Sowjanya, I believe I have seen something about vinegar with lotus root to keep it white– lotus stem is something I am confused about — see the top of the post where I added a little piece. As for lotus root, yes, it held the flavor very well. And I, too, love yogurt sauce πŸ™‚

  8. Sheetal said

    Hehe … lovely post Linda! I love the innovativeness, I am going to especially hunt for lotus root for your Not-a-banana-stem-curry!

    Glad you enjoyed, Sheetal πŸ™‚ Do try the lotus root — with Vini’s spice paste it’s a great combo πŸ™‚

  9. notyet100 said

    this looks so yummy.,….

    Glad you liked it, NY100 πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping!

  10. Loved the title of your post. It manages to create a suspense as to what the food is about πŸ™‚ Not sure why I never took a fancy to the lotus root. Your looks deliocious.
    Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays and a New year ahead, dear Linda,

    Thank you Redchillies, and wishing you and yours the same! Do try lotus root — it’s quite versatile and tasty. I have the feeling I know you under another name??? Or maybe that’s just me πŸ™‚

  11. vinaya said

    Awesome recipe Linda! I remember eating lotus stems for the time at a Kashmiri friend’s house…they are so distinct in flavour, arent they?

    Hi Vinaya, glad you enjoyed! If you mean the pickled lotus, yes, it’s very distinct! This lotus root is rather bland — you could cook it up any number of ways πŸ™‚

  12. Sayantani said

    otus root is something I have not yet tried. ate it at a kashmiri friend’s house and loved it. I like this preparation would like to try sometime.

    Thanks for stopping, Sayantani! Vini’s spice paste made all the difference in this dish πŸ™‚

  13. Koki said

    Wow what an innovative curry Linda.. I have never got the guts to try lotus root though I have seen them in the asian groceries… I think its high time I overcome my fear for the unknown…Will try and let you know πŸ˜€

    Koki — you seem like the kind of gal who isn’t afraid to try anything! πŸ˜‰ If you try, I hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚

  14. Mathangi said

    Sounds and looks delicious. I have a bottle of lotus stems in my refrigerator and I am wondering if I can replace the roots:).

    Hi Mathangi, and thank you! Your comment prompted me to look further into lotus! See the addendum above — I am always substituting this-for-that — why not try! πŸ™‚

  15. yummy. not i wish i wasn’t so lazy. i’d love to try this one dayin the future.

    You two, lazy? Never. I am thinking you commented in your sleep πŸ˜‰ Nice to see y’all!

  16. elaichietcetera said

    I like lotus roots.

    Hey Pel — long time no see πŸ™‚

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