How to Cook Bamboo Shoots without the Bitter Taste ? It’s Easier Than You Think
Bamboo shoots transport me to my favorite season, spring. I was initiated to eating bamboo shoots as a vegetable by a Japanese friend.
For someone who grew in a Western environment, my idea of a vegetable had always been potatoes, broccoli, and kale. But when I learned what bamboo shoots are and the wonderful dishes they make, I became a convert.
In this article, we will provide you some simple tips on how to cook bamboo shoots without the bitter taste . After reading, you can use it easily for many delicious dishes.
What is a Bamboo Shoot ?
A bamboo shoot is a newly-grown bamboo. Think of them as baby bamboos that are just less than two weeks old.
The shoots are white and tender, covered in layers of protective outer shells. In Asian countries, particularly in China and Japan, bamboo shoots are harvested and prepared like vegetables (also called bamboo shoots chinese style).
Bamboo shoots grow in spring and winter. Spring bamboo shoots grow sometime between March to June. They are known for having sweet tips.
On the other hand, winter bamboo shoots are dug out from the ground. These are typically used for making canned bamboo shoots.
So, one spring morning I was wandering at the local farmers’ market. An Asian vendor had a spread full of fresh vegetables and fruits at his stall, but the bamboo shoots caught my attention the most.
I purchased some and headed home feeling like it's spring in Japan, excited to get a taste of freshly-cooked bamboo shoots.
How to Prepare Bamboo Shoots
Do you know how to cook bamboo shoots without the bitter taste ? Bitterness is one of the issues you’ll inevitably face when preparing and cooking bamboo shoots for the first time. The bitterness will certainly taste nasty to your palate.
However, right and proper preparation certainly go a long way in removing bitterness and making bamboo shoots and enjoyable meal.
But first, a few important reminders:
- Prepare your bamboo shoots as soon as possible, ideally when they’re still fresh. The longer you wait, the more bitter they become.
- Also, do not try to eat bamboo shoots raw. They contain harmful toxins called hydrocyanic acid which make them taste bitter. You could get a nasty case of cyanide poisoning if you eat the shoots raw. Proper preparation and cooking will destroy the toxins and make bamboo shoots fit for consumption.
Now, let’s begin preparing bamboo shoots. Here are the things that you need:
1. Bamboo Shoots
3. Rinsing Water From Rice
(Plain Water Works Too)
- Wash Bamboo Shoots. Hold bamboo shoots under running water and rub away dirt.
- Remove the outer layers. The outer layers are tough and should be discarded. Run a knife from top to bottom of the shoot. Pry it open by holding each side with both hands and pulling in separate directions. Repeat process until you see the white shoot.
- Check for tenderness. The inner shoot is tender and white. Keep taking away layers until you found it tender enough.
- Cut off the roots and fibrous portions. Cut an inch from the base and remove any woody end from the shoot. They tend to be too tough and should not be included in cooking.
- Place shoots into the pot. Slice the shoots into halves or three’s if they don’t fit the pot.
- Pour in rinsing water from rice. Make sure to have enough rinsing water to cover the shoots in the pot. You’ll also need to add more water later on if water reduces and the shoots are not yet fully cooked. This is the most crucial step in removing bitterness from bamboo shoots.
- Cover and cook. Let the shoots cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on how many shoots you have, it may take more or less one hour to soften them.
- Check for tenderness. Get a skewer and pick it through the body of the shoot. It is done if you don’t feel any more resistance. Turn off heat.
- Let the bamboo shoots cool completely in the water. Don’t remove the water and let the shoots cool in the pot.
- Remove the shoots from the pot and immerse in a bowl of cold water. Slice the shoots up according to the recipe. If you’re not using them right away, place the sprouts in the refrigerator.
Pork and Bamboo Shoot Stir-fry
This is a traditional dish among bamboo shoot lovers. The earthy and sweet flavors of bamboo shoots complement well with the meaty taste of pork. Add in some chilies if you like it a hot.
- 1 cup cooked bamboo shoot, sliced thinly
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 4 ounces ground pork
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 red chili pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp chicken broth
- 1 tsp rice wine
- Salt to taste
Put 1 tbsp of olive oil into a pan and heat over medium flame. Add in bamboo shoots and stir. Cook for around until fragrant or until shoots become dry and become aromatic. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add in the remaining olive oil and saute garlic, onion, and red chili. Cook until fragrant. Add in ground pork and stir. Cook until pork becomes brown and cooked thoroughly. Season pork with salt. Add in wine and cook for 1 minute.
Place cooked bamboo shoot into the pan and mix with ground pork. Stir in soy sauce, rice vinegar and broth and mix. Cook for two more minutes while occasionally stirring to infuse all the flavors fully.
Drizzle the dish with some sesame oil and serve.
Using Vacuum Sealed Canned Bamboo Shoots
In places where fresh bamboo shoots are not available, the canned version comes as a real alternative. There might be very slight differences in flavor, but you can use canned bamboo shoots in most recipes, of course, including bamboo shoot recipes for vegetarian.
You just need to rinse them with clean water before cooking. However, if the shoots have a strong odor, boil them in water before using.
Additionally, you may opt for vacuum-sealed bamboo shoots if you don’t want the canned version. These are pre-cooked bamboo shoots sealed in an airtight container. You just have to remove the shoots from the packaging, rinse, and cook.
The bamboo shoot is indeed an interestingly delicious vegetable. It is also flexible enough to be worked in some dishes. I usually cook bamboo shoots for ramen or cook bamboo shoots with coconut milk which are my most favourite dishes.
But before you can arrive at a yummy result, you must first make sure that you’ve removed the bitter taste through proper preparation. After that, your bamboo shoot dish should be a delight to the palate.