Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko)
January 29, 2011
Fresh bamboo shoots, known in Japan as takenoko and considered a springtime delicacy, as they are throughout much of Asia, are a highly nutritious wild vegetable. They are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of Protein, Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
The species most commonly consumed in Asia are typically ‘running’ bamboos that grow to very large diameters and produce magnificently large shoots. Moso (Phyllostachys edulis) is a commonly eaten species in Japan. Other species of bamboo, both ‘running’ and ‘clumping’ are also edible but the shoots, particularly of the clumping varieties, will generally be smaller. Some of the smaller shoots are great but if you go too small you’ll need to collect an awful lot of them to get a good feed. I do not know of any species of bamboo that are not edible but some species are said to contain cyanide that should be leached or boiled out before eating (see the process of precooking described below). To be on the safe side I precook all bamboo shoots as its a lot easier than learning to identify all the different species.
Pictured below is a shoot at about optimum eating size of a species of running bamboo that grows to a diameter of around 5 to 8 centimetres. The shoot pictured is probably somewhere between 10 to 15 centimetres in length. To encourage the formation of larger shoots bamboo stands are thinned and, at a minimum, there should be space to walk between the bamboo.
My Chinese neighbours, who forage for bamboo shoots in the same bamboo grove in which I have been living, harvest much larger shoots but I have never worked out how they prepare them to make them in any way as good as the smaller tender shoots that I take. Following their instructions I ended up with woody shoots that were barely palatable. Something lost in translation maybe…
When I harvest a shoot I want the thicker end to look like it does in the photo below.
To prepare the shoots (and rid them of any cyanide) cut off the pointy tips and cook the shoots in water saved from the washing of brown rice or otherwise in water containing a little bran. They should be boiled for about an hour. Once done and cooled a little remove the layers of tough outer skin until you reach the tender fleshy centre. Unless the shoots are tiny I usually slice them in half lengthways first to make the removal of the edible centre easier.
Once you have the tender centres of the shoots they can be added to other dishes or flavoured. Following is one of my favourite ways of eating the shoots:
Bamboo Shoots and Brown Rice
Wash the brown rice (saving the water for precooking the bamboo shoots) and soak for at least an hour or use sprouted brown rice
Prepare the bamboo shoots as mentioned above
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms and a strip of kombu seaweed in water (fresh shiitake can be used as can other species of seaweeds but tougher ones that won’t disintegrate with the long cooking time are best)
When the bamboo shoots are ready combine with the rice, shiitake, and kombu, carrots chopped into small bite sized chunks can also be added, cover with a splash more water than you would normally use for the quantity of rice being cooked and add a decent splash of shoyu or tamari and mirin (sweet cooking sake)
Bring to a boil then lower the heat to the absolute minimum possible and cook for about 45 minutes
For more on bamboo shoots see the post Takenoko published April 2011.