Friday, October 5, 2007

Is This Really a Buffalo Bean?

I came across this incredibly bizarre object being used in a window display at a florist shop near my home. I snapped a couple shots, and asked the florist what in the world it was. It was obviously organic in nature, but I had never seen anything like it. He said it was a “Buffalo Bean,” but that’s all he knew about it. He even snapped one open for me and it had a firm white center. I did a quick search online, and while “Buffalo Bean” did turn up quite a few links, I couldn’t find anything looking even close to this. Does anyone out there know what the hell this is? Is it as evil as it looks? Can I cook with it? Help!

23 comments:

Uncledee said...

No, this is nothing like a bean. This is a Caltrop, an asian water chestnut that is used in a variety of dishes in hongkong, malaysia and singapore. I'm a singaporean and they have these everywhere in the markets. Their crunchy, sweet and mainly used in chinese pork dumplings, i hope that helps :) cheers

Anonymous said...

Hi again John.

Here's 2 links http://www.luckymojo.com/batnut.html
http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ploct95.htm

I bought a bag of these while living in Taiwan, and I must say that the taste is far below the effort of..
1. Transportation. I just made it back to the apartment before the little buggers had 'gored' their way out of the bag.
2. Cooking. Well, not much can go wrong here. Same methods as chestnuts.
3. Opening. Now, I was at a bit of a loss here. There were no chain-mail gloves or hydraulic press in the apartment.

Anyway, I cooked and then 'coaxed' their contents out with a meat tenderizer (no band-aids, but paper towels did the job). After gathering some scattered particles I found the taste to be somewhat like bland, hard, starchy potato. Hopefully the rest of 'em have adorned some part of a Taiwan garbage tip.

The 'green' (peelable) oranges, marinated chicken feet and duck tounges were much more tasty.

Carol said...

Check Wikipedia!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_bean

Anonymous said...

wow that is a stumper!?? I thought it may be a type of tropical Mucuna pod (basically a type of sea bean pod, there are various Mucuna in rainforest and equitorial regions all over the world)...but it doesn't fit anything I have seen so I am also stumped. Did the florist have any idea what country it was from? Good luck on figuring this one out.

Anonymous said...

From the picture it looks like a water caltrop (D)

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/fruits.htm

enjoy!

seryph07 said...

No, I'm told it tastes disgusting, and eating a fair amount can make you sick.
I wouldn't eat them!

Chef John said...

mmmmmm....Caltrops!

Thanks to all of you for the info. Except the "check wikipedia" comment ;) thats the first place i check (for everything), but they did'nt have any close-ups.

Rebecca said...

I don't know, Chef John, it looks like 2 morning doves that have melded together. But I also see those horns too! I agree, I wouldn't mess with 'em!!

Chef John said...

Yeah, I think the shape is nature's way of saying, "why would you want to eat this?" But then again, what about all the other ugly, yet delicious foods.

Susanna said...

This water chestnut/caltrop is commonly eaten during Mid Autumn Festival in HK. They have medicinal property, even cancer fighting, but should only be eaten in small amount b/c they belong to the "cold food" category (that's a whole different show). Cooked with beef, the dish can help alleviate headache, period pain and muscle pain. (They shouldn't be eaten with pork or you may get a stomachache.) You can eat them after boiling them in salted water for 10 min or use the meat to make stirfry dishes, salad or stew. The meat is mildly sweet and finely textured if you don't overcook them.

clair said...

Nice photo, Chef. This is an Asian chestnut that's a big feature of the Mid-Autumn (Mooncake) festival when I was growing up.

You just boil them and then pry them open with a small knife. There's not much meat inside as is evident from its shape. The meat is white. It tastes just like a chestnut, slightly sweet.

Don't worry, they're pretty palatable and they won't kill you, that's for sure ;) .

Aristolochia said...

water caltrop!
its delicious despite the negative comments posted here. you just have to boil it in water. only that its really a challenge to crack. but some varieties (black ones) really have 'carvings' on them that resemble buffaloes! i used to eat them when i was young but they're pretty hard to find now :(

Jeffrey said...

i remember eating them as a kid, roasted off in the oven.

as i recall, they stunk up the kitchen something fierce.

(i also noticed them in the window display - i LOVE passing by that florist!)

Mummygirl said...

Hey, I missed eating those chestnuts! =) We used to play with them before devouring them; hooking as many chestnuts as possible to make a continuous line of chestnuts. It was a great test of balance and patience, and we got to eat the chestnuts as a reward.

Anonymous said...

It looks kinda rude... okay, maybe its cause i have a dirty mind.

nakichiam said...

I ate it before and it's good. Although it does stink a lil bit (Which can't be described with words)

Kimberley said...

Hey there. I just came across these too last month for the first time! I also blogged about them at: http://sum.ptuo.us/roller/ks/entry/do_you_know_what_this I haven't tried cooking them, but I did break it open and tried it raw. They do smell a bit and don't have much flavor. Definitely not the same texture as an ordinary water chestnut.

Anonymous said...

Trust our Asian friends, they what of they speak. Check out this site.

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ploct95.htm

You can even see the buffalo heads!

J. T. Rhoe
jtrhoe@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

This thing has just captivated me. It is also know as the horned water chestnut. Wiki has it under water caltrop. Here is another good photo.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/charliebrown8989/61755421/

John T. Rhoe
jtrhoe@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

I forgot what this thing is called, I'm Taiwanese and only know the Taiwanese word for it. I do know how to cook it though, really you just boil a big pot of water and dump a whole bunch of em in. That's what us Taiwanese/Chinese people do. It's really your choice though. I've heard of people roasting these too. Quite like cooking chesnuts.

Steve said...

I remember seeing these caltrops in an Asian food market in Edmonton Alberta. What are these? I asked an elderly Asian lady. I was told it was a kind of chestnut that sells around the Autumn moon festival and is considered good luck because they have the shape of a crescent moon. Having no idea how to cook chestnuts I took one home because the shape was interesting and after all it was good luck.

Dayanartcis said...

hi.. i just watched your videos from bigoven.com and they made me starved!! i really liked the way u cooked there. fast, easy and inexpensive...

i'll try just some of them because some of the ingredients cannot be (easily or not at all) found in our country (Philippines) or i'll use substitutes like what i usually do..

thanks for your wonderful videos! pls keep them coming!

ps. it might help.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_caltrop

鳥屎 said...

We got a whole lot of these in Taiwan