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The Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis; synonyms E. equisetina, E. indica, E. plantaginea, E. plantaginoides, E. tuberosa, E. tumida), more often called simply the water chestnut, is a grass-like sedge grown for its edible corms. They grow underwater in mud. It has tube-shaped, leafless green stems that grow to about 1.5 metres. The water caltrop, which is also referred to by the same name, is unrelated and often confused with the water chestnut.

The Chinese water chestnut (traditional Chinese: 荸薺; simplified Chinese: 荸荠; hanyu pinyin: bíqi, 馬蹄; pinyin:mǎtí) is native to Chinamarker and is widely cultivated in flooded paddy fields in southern China and parts of the Philippinesmarker.

In Vietnammarker, it is called củ mã thầy (in the North) and củ năng (in the South) and is the main ingredient of bánh củ năng hấp, chè mã thầy. In Indiamarker, it is called Singhada (सिंघाडा) or Singada.

The small, rounded corms have a crispy white flesh and can be eaten raw, slightly boiled, grilled, pickled, or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They can also be ground into a flour form used for making water chestnut cake, which is common as part of dim sum cuisine. They are unusual among vegetables for remaining crisp even after being cooked or canned. They do this because their cell walls are cross-linked and strengthened by certain phenolic compounds, a property shared by other vegetables that remain crisp in this manner, including the tiger nut and lotus root.

The corms are rich in carbohydrates (about 90 percent by dry weight), especially starch (about 60 percent by dry weight), and are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese.

If eaten uncooked, the surface of the plants can transmit Fasciolopsiasis.

The water chestnut is actually not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes.

Taste and Texture

Boiled water chestnut has a firm, and slightly crunchy texture. The flavor is very mild, slightly nutty in taste, though is easily overpowered by any seasonings or sauces the water chestnut is served or cooked with.

Flavor Affinities

Water chestnut are often combined with bamboo shoots, cilantro, ginger, sesame oil and snow peas. It is often used in pasta or rice dishes.

See also

  • Aquatic plants
  • The unrelated water plants of the genus Trapa, are also known as Water Chestnuts, though they are better known to Westerners as "Water Caltrops." Water caltrops are considered to be an invasive plant pest the United States, and their introduction into American waterways has had a negative impact on native vegetation and fish populations in the waterways of northeast sections of North America.


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