First some etymology: “renkon” is what we call the root of the lotus flower plant, while manju, less poetically, means something like “round bun”. What we have here, in fact, is a shrimp-infused dumpling made with a dough of grated lotus root. Place one of these in a bowl under sauce and you’ve made a blockbuster side-dish. Put two of them in a bowl and what you have is a deeply satisfying main.
When we lived in Europe, we had a really hard time sourcing fresh lotus roots, but here in Montreal it’s no problem: they always seem to have them at Kim Phat. That means we’re able to make lotus root tempura, which is a particular favorite of mine, as well as braised lotus root (kimpira), which is also very good. But renkon manju is in a league of its own: a truly special delicacy.
Don’t let this recipe intimidate you, though: after you’ve done it once or twice you’ll find it’s much easier than you imagine.