Guì huā lián’ǒu is what you get when you take a lotus root, stuff its cavities with sticky rice, and cook it in a vat of sweetened brine.
Guì huā lián’ǒu 桂花莲藕, or rice stuffed honeyed lotus root, is one of the more interesting of Chinese street foods. It is exactly what it’s name indicates: lotus roots stuffed with glutinous rice and cooked in a sweet sauce.
They are made by slicing one end off a lotus root — which is technically the stem — and stuffing it’s empty cavities with uncooked sticky rice. The end is then reattached with toothpicks, and the roots are then tossed into a vat of brown sauce — which is concocted from mixing osmanthus (an evergreen shrub), sugar, and salt, among other flavorings. As the lotus roots are boiled in the sweet sauce, the rice inside cooks and expands. The end result is a lotus root ran through with veins of sticky rice.
From Life On Nanjing Lu:
Honeyed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice (literally osmanthus flower lotus root) is one of the most refined and aesthetically beautiful of all street foods once you slice it open and see the wonderful pattern the rice makes against the honeyed lotus root.
These are whole lotus roots, the interior root chambers filled with sticky rice then slowly cooked so that the lotus root’s starchy sweetness fully develops, and turns from pale white to deep red-brown (much like a quince) and the rice grains plump up to fill the long tubular spaces within the lotus root, giving it that characteristic appearance when sliced.
It is getting to the end of lotus root season here in China, and I figured I’d better get one of these rice stuffed honeyed lotus roots while I still have the chance. I found a vendor selling them out of an incredible tub on the back of a bicycle cart. Though I have to admit that the brackish brine these lotus roots were cooked in looked septic, I bought one anyway for 6 RMB, US$1.
According to the Chinese, eating lotus root clears heat, cools the blood, tonifies the spleen, increases appetite, inhibits diarrhea, lowers fever, invigorates the stomach, and nourishes blood.
All that in a sweetened snack that sells for a buck a pound.