Bamboo shoots (takenoko)
By Luc Gougeon
Ask any Japanese person and they will tell you that spring is the season of bamboo shoots, or takenoko. I fell in love with freshly made takenoko spring rolls last year and I tried to learn more about this odd vegetable. There is a good chance that you will find some in your school lunch this spring, probably in the form of bamboo shoots rice. Cooked takenoko is available all year in ready-to-serve portions at pretty much any supermarket, but I want to share with you the technique to prepare these shoots from scratch. Bamboo shoots are impressive looking vegetables, and they’re not something familiar in the American kitchen.
First find a nice, firm bamboo shoot, wash off the dirt and cut off the tip diagonally. You should cut a vertical slit down the whole length of each shoot because later you will need to peel away some of the tough skin and cutting it now will make your job much easier.
Next, immerse the takenoko in a pot and cover it in water. Add about 1 cup of rice bran. Nuka, or rice bran, is widely used in Japanese pickling, so it’s easy to find. Throw in two little dried hot peppers and bring the pot to a soft boil. Cover the pot and let it boil for an hour or so.
After an hour, you should be able to easily insert a toothpick or skewer in the bottom of the takenoko. It’s like cooking potato — you want to make sure it’s tender.
Once it’s cooked, turn off the heat and let it cool down completely. When you can safely handle the takenoko, remove the protective sheath and scrape off the bottom of the shoot.
If you put the bamboo shoots in cold water and change the water everyday, you can keep takenoko for about five days in the fridge.
Now your takenoko is ready for any recipe you might fancy. Need an idea for how to use it? Give this simple, common Japanese recipe a try:
Bamboo Shoots Rice (Takenoko Gohan)
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- Dashi soup stock
- 1 or 2 cups of thinly sliced bamboo shoots (depending on the size of your rice cooker)
- Thin slices of fried tofu (Tofu that’s already fried can be purchased at the supermarket. It’s called age tofu.)
1.) You’ll need a rice cooker for this. Wash your rice as usual and replace the water with dashi in the proportion recommended on your rice cooker.
2.) Soak the tofu in hot water before slicing it. Then add the tofu, sake, soy sauce, mirin and bamboo shoots to the cooker.
3.) Turn on the rice cooker, and you’ll have a super easy and delicious meal in no time!
Photo by fui, published under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License.