It is common knowledge that bamboo is both prevalent and proliferated throughout Asia. Asian bamboo’s status as a large, timber-sized grass means that it is frequently used as a building material for furniture, eating utensils, and household items, but did you know that bamboo is also eaten? For most of the year, bamboo stalks and leaves are too tough to be used as food, but each spring, the new shoots, which are soft and tender, are harvested, boiled to remove toxins and eaten as a vegetable. In Japanese, this vegetable is known as takenoko. Due to bamboo’s fast growth rate, fresh takenoko are only available for a short time each season, as the shoots very quickly become too big and tough to eat. For the majority of the year, and also overseas where bamboo does not grow as often, takenoko are found already boiled and sealed for preservation.
On its own, takenoko has a mild, slightly nutty flavor. It is slightly crunchy and has a noticeable grain to its pieces, making it somewhat woody while still being tender. When takenoko is fresh, it has a lovely fragrance vaguely reminiscent of savory, fresh grass. Takenoko is most commonly simmered and eaten on its own as a side dish, or mixed with rice for takenoko gohan, or takenoko onigiri. Here at Maido, we have boiled and sealed takenoko as a regular feature in our produce section. If you’re interested in getting to know how it tastes, try the following simple recipe, borrowed from our friends over at Just One Cookbook!
Simmered Bamboo Shoots
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
½ boiled bamboo shoot (227 g, 8 oz)
2 Tbsp ryorishu cooking sake
2 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ cup water (you can use dashi instead for more flavor)
Remove the bamboo shoot from the packaging and rinse thoroughly. This will remove any congealed tyrosine (a natural amino acid found in raw bamboo shoots) left over from the cooling process. This step is optional, as tyrosine does not affect the taste, but may leave any broth the shoot is simmered in cloudy.
Cut the bamboo shoot in half, and place one half of it into a ziploc bag. Seal it tightly, and place into the freezer to save for later. If you wish to use the whole thing, simply double the quantity of seasonings and bonito flakes you plan to use.
Cut the top, segmented part of the bamboo shoot off of the solid bottom portion, then slice the segmented top into wedges. Cut the bottom portion into quartered rounds, approximately ¼ inch thick.
Combine the ingredients listed under “seasonings” together in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add the bamboo shoots, reduce heat to a medium simmer, and cover the pot with a drop lid. If you do not have a drop lid, place a piece of aluminum foil with a few holes poked in it into the saucepan so that it sits directly on top of the simmering ingredients. This will work in place of a drop lid in a pinch.
Once the amount of liquid has reduced to ⅓ of its original amount, remove the lid.
Garnish the bamboo shoots by sprinkling katsuobushi flakes over top.
Remove from the heat, and allow to cool before serving.