Let me explain…
I can understand the horrified expression you have on your face and the ugly places your mind is going. While the term “Bat Nuts for Dessert” may take you where you never hoped to go, there really is a good explanation for all of this. Trust me.
I discovered these odd little things at one of the Asian food markets I like to frequent, and I had to buy a bunch although I had no idea what to do with them. Hey! They’re in the food section! So they must be somewhat edible at some level, right?
Well, I got them home and immediately jumped on the Internet. I had to use the term Water Caltrop that I saw at the Asian market, and then the other nicknames were revealed: devil pod, bull’s head, bull nut, buffalo nut, water chestnut, demon head, Ling Jiao, etc. When I first looked at it, its appearance reminded me of the head of a black African Water Buffalo in form. But this name was my favorite.
Apparently there are two types of water chestnut that are used in Asian cooking, and this is one of them. The Latin name for this little odd-looking gem is Trapa bicornis. Look it up!
It is a type of water plant, and it’s very invasive when introduced to the right environment. Florida, for instance, regards these as pest species. These Bat Nuts (or whatever you want to call them) are the seed pods of the plant. And that’s the food part that we’re interested in.
The nuts have to be boiled before they can be consumed. Just as with cashews, they have a toxin that is incapacitated by boiling. Even after boiling – about ten minutes or so – the shell is pretty hard. Using a nutcracker or pliers opens up the black exterior and reveals a snowy white interior. Its taste and texture are not unlike Brazil nuts, except that the texture is a little creamier and not as chewy as the Brazil. Plan to use a nut pick to get all of the very yummy nut out of the shell. It’s really quite tasty.
Because it’s almost Halloween, you have to figure that these make pretty good decorations, right? It’s hard to get past the creepiness factor.
So there you have it. After a meal of lamb and wine, this was an unusual and fun dessert.
And, by the way, “Bat Nuts” are nuts that look like a bat. Not what you’re thinking.
I found them at 168 Market, located on the NW corner of Spring Mountain and Jones in the strip mall at the southern end. If you walk into the market and it stinks, fear not. It’s just Durian. But that’s a topic for another post.