Floating light

Nutrient-rich water chestnuts need only a culinary imagination

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Sunday 15 January 2006

Floating light

imageWater chestnut (Trapa natans) is a popular fruit in many parts of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and southern China.

Though native to South and Southeast Asia, water chestnuts are also found in Africa and North America. The plants grow well in ponds, lakes and even shallow streams.

imageSucculent, slightly crunchy and delicately sweet, water chestnuts are munched raw, seasoned or sautéed, and even ground to make flour. This last quality makes it a favourite in northern India for those who abstain from cereals during religious fasts: the flour (singhare-ka-atta) is a staple in many a household during the October-November festive season. Puris, sauté and a sweetmeat called katle are some popular savouries made from water chestnut flour.

Harvested between October and December, water chestnuts are valued in traditional systems of medicine, such as the Ayurveda, for their cooling and astringent properties. They are reputed to reduce heartburn, fatigue and inflammation and are also useful against blood disorders, urinary tract infections, bad breath, toothaches and dehydration.

So, just chomp on to a water chestnut.


This is one of the most common dishes prepared during fasts. It
retains a lot of moisture and cools the stomach.

Take 100 grammes of singhara-ka-atta in a pan. Roast it well in a
pan; keep aside. Take 400 ml of water in a pan and add 200
grammes of sugar to it; mix well. Add the flour to it and stir well to
remove clots. Cook on a slow flame. Keep stirring till the mixture
thickens. Pour in a greased plate and set. Decorate with coconut
powder and cardamom. Cut into small squares.

Take 250 gm water chestnut and one potato. Peel and cut both.
Pour some oil in a pan, add asafoetida, cumin seeds, salt, and powdered
turmeric, chilli and coriander. Mix well. Add vegetables. Cover
and cook till soft. Squeeze a lemon and garnish with coriander.

Water chestnut flour canÔÇÖt be rolled into puris easily. So, while
kneading, boiled potatoes have to be added to the dough. The are
then ready to be rolled into puris and fried.

When eaten raw, jaggery is said to be the best accompaniment.

Caution: The plant grows in stagnant ponds, so water chestnut fruits
should be washed well before peeling

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