Believed to have originated in southern China, the water chestnut,also known as Chinese water chestnut or "mah tai" has been consumed since ancient times and continues to play an important role in Chinese cooking. It has a dark-brown skin, ivory flesh, crisp texture, and slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The water chestnut grows in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and marshes and China is and has always been the world's leading producer of water chestnuts.
Water chestnuts are held to be a good tonic and are credited with many curative and supplementing properties. Water chestnut is cold in nature and is excellent for clearing Heat. Ground water chestnut powder mixed with water can relieve cough. Boiling water chestnuts in water makes the best drink for measles patients and is appropriate for all measles patients from the third day till the ninth day of the cycle. It helps to speed up the measles cycle. Fever is usually associated with urination difficulty or pain. Water chestnut sweet soup significantly eases the pain and promotes urination.
Indigestion can cause nausea and bad appetite in kids. Drinking water chestnut juice slowly alleviates the problem. Water chestnuts are also believed to cure jaundice and detoxify. They are extremely cold and laxative in nature and therefore should not be eaten excessively or it will cause gassy stomach and bloating. Children eating too much water chestnut might have severe pain under the navel. Pregnant woman especially should avoid.
Usually available canned though can be found fresh or dried from Chinese or oriental provision stores, or larger supermarkets. Store leftover canned chestnuts in a screw-top container, immersed in water, in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to one month, provided the water is changed daily. Because water chestnuts are quite perishable, it is better to store them unpeeled. Fresh water chestnuts can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to a week.
Water chestnuts should be washed thoroughly to get rid of any traces of dirt. Remove soft or brown patches and discard any damaged or fermented water chestnuts. A pair of very sharp knife makes peeling water chestnuts easy. Immerse them in water with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. To peel cooked water chestnuts, cut an "X" in the flat part of each chestnut and immerse them in boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove them from the water and peel them, removing their thin brownish membrane at the same time. Water chestnuts can be used whole, halved, sliced, diced, cut into julienne strips, or puréed.
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