Bamboo shoots are young bamboo plants. They may be harvested whilst still buried in the ground and these are called Winter bamboo shoots, or 冬筍. Spring bamboo shoots emerge from the ground and are allowed to grown till about 20 cm tall before harvest. Fresh bamboo shoots are tender, mildly aromatic, a little crunchy. They may be a little bitter too. Blanching them helps to get rid of bitter taste.
In China, Japan, Korea, and most South-East Asian countries bamboo shoots may be eaten fresh, pickled, and dried. Select bamboo shoots that are short with a wide base and are solid and heavy for their size. Avoid soft, moldy, or cracked bamboo shoots or shoots that don’t smell fresh.
Is it worth the effort to buy fresh bamboo shoots to peel and cook? Why not just buy can bamboo shoots? More often than not, I use can ones but if I spot fresh bamboo shoots for sale in the wet market and if there is time on my hands, I do think their flavour is worth the time and effort.
During our residence in Japan, we were exposed to eating bamboo shoot in several different ways. Quite an eye opener. Prior, I had only shredded cooked bamboo shoots for making Poh Piah filling, added them into braised dishes and made a soup like “Hot and Sour Soup”.
“From Harvest to Table” has these suggestions on how to serve Bamboo shoot after they have been cooked. Cut very young shoots into sticks, cubes, or slices and cook in lightly salted water for 30 minutes or until tender.
- Cut into slices, sticks, cubes, or julienne and add to tuna or chicken salad.
- Toss with fried rice or noodles.
- Use to fill spring rolls or dumplings.
- Dip in tempura batter and deep fry.
- Marinate in rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
- Cook in dashi sauce and serve.
- Stir fry with vegetables and chicken.
Bamboo shoot have a flavor affinity for beef, chicken, cilantro, dashi, eggs, ginger, mirin, miso rice, rice noodles, scallions, sesame oil, shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce, and tofu.
Preparing raw Bamboo Shoot
Each bamboo species has a different shooting season, and each bamboo grove will have a slightly different season depending on the climate. Bamboo shoots taste the best when they are very young, as the quality quickly starts to decrease as the shoots grow and they also start to turn bitter. The photo above shows a pair of Taiwanese bamboo shoots which were on sale at a local wet market.
Cleaning and removing the sheath of the bamboo shoot
STEP 1. Lay out several thickness of newspapers on your kitchen counter top. Wash the dirt off the bamboo shoots, using a soft brush. With a sharp cleaver or large knife, slice through the outer leaves along one side of the bamboo shoot. All the way from the bottom to the tip of the shoot. This loosens the sheath.
STEP 2. Use your finger tips to pry open the sheath, do this along the cut you have just made. Once the sheath has been pried open enough to give you a slit, stick your fingers between the sheath and the creamy white bamboo shoot. Push your fingers inside to detach the sheath. Run fingers along the length of the bamboo shoot. Pull sheath away from the creamy white shoot inside. You have now removed the whole outer sheath, leaving only the “flesh”.
STEP 3. Check the now peeled creamy white shoot for tenderness. If the creamy white shoot is not soft and tender, slice off as much of the fibrous parts in thin layers until tender. Shave off any knobby fibrous bits around the stem. Cut off around an inch of the tough end of the thick stem until you reach the tender part of the shoot. No woody fibrous bits or blackened bits should remain.
STEP 4. Halve the peeled and trimmed shoot.
Cooking the prepared bamboo shoot
STEP 1. Use either water you have collected from rinsing your rice or plain water. Fill a large enough pot or a pressure cooker until it is about half full.
STEP 2. Bring liquid to boil. Add sugar and the peeled and cut bamboo shoot. Ensure water level is higher than bamboo shoot by about 2 cm. If using a pot, simmer over medium heat for about 30 mins or even up to an hour till tender. It is difficult to prescribe an exact time since it depends on the variety of bamboo shoot. It is ready when a knife goes through with no resistance and there is no more bitterness. If still bitter change the water and let boil for another 5-10 minutes. Let cool in the covered pot. When cool enough, slice first in half lengthwise, then into 1/4″ thick slices at an diagonal, or into 1/4″ by 3″ strips.
HINT: if you are using a pressure cooker, follow manufacturer’s instructions. Pressure cook for about 20 mins or more. Cool pressure cooker. Check for tenderness.