I was trolling my local Asian market again and came across something in the produce aisle I’d never seen. Actually, I had seen it before but hadn’t known at the time what it was. This time, they had sign with the name of the product: bamboo. As in the bamboo shoots that you get in Chinese take-out. Of course, I had to buy it.
Now came the big question: How the hell do I prepare this? I read online that you peel away the outer layers, but I think I went a little too far. I figured that it was like an artichoke—you keep peeling until you get to the light green, tender leaves. The thing with bamboo is that you keep peeling and it doesn’t really change. I finally figured that out and stopped peeling. I cut off the tip, sliced off the bottom just a bit, cut it all up and boiled them until I could pierce them with the tip of a knife.
My stir fry was really going to benefit from the addition of fresh bamboo and I was really excited to see how it would taste. As I expected, the fresh bamboo was so good. It had a fresh, mild taste and a firm, slightly crunchy texture, and it was completely superior to the canned varieties most of us are familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the flavor, though. A little grassy, a little buttery, but very amenable to whatever other flavors you’re cooking with it. The canned version has a washed-out flavor in comparison.
Another thing that struck me about fresh bamboo was that because of the shape of bamboo shoots, you won’t get those perfect little rectangles you get in a can, which gives you a clue as to how much processing they go through.
If you see some in your local Asian market, it’s really worth it to give a try. It’s not cheap—$3.99 per pound where I bought it—but you get a lot from one shoot. Here’s a recipe for what I made. I used a type of mushroom called “beech” mushrooms, which I’d also never heard of before. They were so pretty and snow white, I had to try them. But seeing as how you’re not likely to easily find them, I changed it to shiitakes.
Fresh Bamboo Stir Fry with Soba Noodles
1 1/2 lb fresh bamboo shoot
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb bok choy, chopped, stems and leaves separated
2 tbsp shoyu
2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 lb soba noodles, cooked
1 tbsp minced cilantro for garnish
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut off the tip (about an inch) and trim the bottom of the bamboo shoot. Peel away a couple of layers. Cut it up into pieces and place in the boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, but still firm, when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or wide skillet. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to turn brown.
3. Add the bok choy stems; stir fry 1 minute. Add the bok choy leaves, shoyu, and toasted sesame seed oil. Cook 1 more minutes.
4. Add cooked soba noodles and toss. If noodles are cold, cook until heated through. Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle cilantro on top.