Join us as we reveal the surprising results and find out which method reigns supreme in transforming waterblommetjies into a delectable masterpiece.
South Africa’s culinary traditions are rich and diverse, and among its lesser-known culinary treasures is the waterblommetjie. These small, succulent buds harvested from aquatic plants not only hold cultural significance but also offer a unique and delightful taste.
Waterblommetjies are commonly used in dishes like waterblommetjie bredie, a hearty stew made with lamb or mutton, potatoes and, of course, waterblommetjies. The plant boasts a unique texture and its flavour is often described as reminiscent of artichokes – mild, slightly tangy and earthy with a touch of sweetness.
While the flavour can vary depending on the preparation method, waterblommetjies always offer a delightful and distinct taste, making them a sought-after ingredient in South African cuisine.
In our quest to unlock the secrets of this South African delicacy, we embarked on a culinary adventure, comparing five different cooking methods: boiling, steaming, roasting, air-frying and deep-frying.
But we didn’t stop there: there was one more method that piqued our curiosity: tempura-battered waterblommetjies.
How to prepare waterblommetjies
Our journey began by soaking the waterblommetjies in salted water for 20-30 minutes. This process serves multiple purposes: it removes impurities, reduces bitterness, enhances flavour and tenderises the waterblommetjies. After this refreshing soak, it’s essential to rinse them thoroughly to remove any excess salt before incorporating them in your recipe.
The cooking comparison: 5 methods to cook waterblommetjies
Steaming proved to be the quickest cooking method, as the waterblommetjies did not require pre-blanching. This method allowed the wholesome earthiness of the waterblommetjies to shine through. They turned out wonderfully tender with a pleasing bite, but be cautious not to overcook them as it can affect the taste, colour and texture.
Steamed waterblommetjies can be added to salads with a punchy lemon dressing or simply served as they are, seasoned with your favourite chilli mix.
The waterblommetjies were gently boiled in salted water with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. While the lemon helps maintain the green hue, they still discoloured somewhat. Nonetheless, they were delicious and reminiscent of lemony baby marrows.
As with steaming, ensure they retain a satisfying bite and avoid overcooking, as they can become mushy. As with steamed waterblommetjies, they are a welcome addition to salads or stir-fries.
For roasting, the waterblommetjies were briefly blanched and then dunked in ice-cold water, followed by a gentle pat dry and roasting with olive oil and salt. Although this method affected the color considerably, it resulted in soft and delicate waterblommetjies that caramelised beautifully.
Roasting seems to be the ideal method for enhancing the waterblommetjies’ sweetness, making them a perfect addition to salads or a delightful accompaniment to a main dish.
Air-frying also involved a brief blanching and an ice-cold water bath, followed by drying and air-frying with olive oil and salt. The outer leaves crisped up beautifully and, due to the short cooking period, they retained their colour well. From a flavour perspective, they maintained an earthy and delicious taste. The caramelised crispy outer leaves added a delightful texture, while the thicker midsections remained tender.
Enjoy them with a zesty dip or add them to salads for a crisp, earthy touch.
The waterblommetjies underwent a similar blanching and ice-cold water bath, followed by drying before being deep-fried. Surprisingly, they maintained their green hue beautifully, and despite being deep-fried, they felt light and almost weightless. They were wonderfully crisp at the edges and tender towards the thicker midsections. From a flavour standpoint, they were packed with flavour – almost nutty with wholesome earthy notes.
Simply savour them as they are with a sprinkle of chilli salt or pair them with a dip of your choice for an ultimate crisp, nutty flavourburst.
Bonus: The unexpected MVP – tempura waterblommetjies
As an exciting bonus, we couldn’t resist the temptation to experiment with tempura-battered waterblommetjies. The results were nothing short of delightful and we completely understand why tempura waterblommetjies have gained such popularity!
Tempura waterblommetjies: A crispy delight
Among the various cooking methods we explored, tempura-battered waterblommetjies proved to be the most intricate, but the outcome was undeniably worth the effort.
As with some of the other methods, the waterblommetjies were blanched briefly, dipped in ice-cold water, and dabbed dry. Then came the transformative step of coating them in a delicate layer of flour, dipping them into the luscious tempura batter and, finally, deep-frying them until they achieved a crisp and enticing golden hue.
The tempura batter introduced an exquisite crunch that beautifully complemented the earthy sweetness of the waterblommetjies. Surprisingly, despite the deep-frying process, the waterblommetjies retained their tender, succulent nature. They turned out to be incredibly moreish, as one would expect from anything cloaked in a deep-fried tempura coating!
However, it’s essential to eat them while they are fresh out of the fryer to fully appreciate their delectable qualities.
RECIPE TO TRY: Waterblommetjie tempura
P.S.A: If you haven’t yet experienced the sheer delight of dipping tempura waterblommetjies in hot honey, safe to say you’re missing out on a culinary sensation!