Fresh Bamboo Shoots

Image by:  Haragayato
Bamboo shoots or takenoko  (竹の子 or 筍) in Japanese, are the edible part of the bamboo. Although, I eat bamboo shoots on a regular basis, I have never cooked one from the root before.  This opportunity arose on Saturday when Mrs. Mihara generously shared the bamboo shoots and fuki from her garden!
As the photo shows, this bamboo was long and thin.  As I peeled the outer husk, it revealed a beautiful, bright yellow tinged, apple green skin, with a smooth and tender texture.  This took me by surprise as I had anticipated a much harder material, more similar to mature bamboo.
Not knowing what to do, I searched YouTube and found this short but informative video on How to Boil Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko).

Bamboo shoots are known to have a bitter aftertaste if not prepared properly.  In Japan, nuka, which he says is powdered rice husk, is used to remove this bitterness during the boiling process.  However, I didn’t have nuka, so I went ahead and used just plain water.  As YouTube tutorial advised, I cooked the bamboo shoot for 40 minutes and let it cool. Then peeled, chopped and washed in cold water.  I also didn’t soak it for half a day as recommended.
The age of a bamboo shoot can be revealed when you cut it in half through observing the distance between the nodules; the ‘younger’ the shoot, the closer the nodules.  From my photos, you can see that the one I cooked is a bit older because the nodules are spaced further apart.  With this fact, I assumed my shoot was going to be a on the tougher and bitter side.
After boiling the bamboo shoot without all the right elements, I was a little concerned about the flavor, however, I was pleasantly surprised at the sweet taste!
I ended up frying the freshly boiled bamboo shoots with a peanut chili sauce and flavored it with the usual Japanese ingredients of shoyu, sake and mirin.  Now I can say for sure, fresh bamboo shoots really make a big difference in flavor!
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