Following up on my previous post on how to gather wild Japanese young bamboo shoots, here is how to prepare them. Or, as we say in the local dialect, Let’s Cookingu! Please also check out KitchengardenJapan’s interesting post on ‘hatsumono’, or the first foods of the season.
Since you’re working with a plant that grows as much as 2 feet every day, you can be sure that it’s not going to wait around for you. Bamboo shoots spoil more quickly than most foods, in raw or cooked form. Get your shoots prepped and cooked as soon as you get home, and enjoy them within a few days.
If you have the sprout as it came out of the ground, hold it firmly in one hand and cut as shown. You’ll cut 30-50% of the way through the sprout, or as far as the center at most.
Peel the layers back and remove the tough ones. When you get to the soft core stop peeling, and cut the top off. To cut the top, start at the tip with your knife–you’ll probably notice that it’s hard to cut through. Don’t force it. Continue toward the wide end until you can easily remove the tip.
If you got your shoots at Uwajimaya or another local store (Vietnamese and Thai groceries also often have raw shoots), then you’re at this point already. Take your shoot and cut it into halves or quarters radially, depending on how big it is.
Add these to a pot of cold water, and add rice bran (what’s left after making brown rice into white rice) in an equal weight to the shoots to remove ‘aku’, or the natural bitterness. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours, and let cool to room temperature, covered. Check the hardness of the shoots and boil longer if necessary.
Rinse and then soak in cold water for half a day or longer. You can keep the shoots in this manner for up to a week, refrigerated, but you must change the water every day.
To flavor your bamboo shoots, use this recipe:
Add a kelp sheet to cold water and heat; just before it boils remove the sheet. When it boils add a handful of dried bonito flakes and turn off the heat. Remove the flakes or strain them out after they sink; don’t squeeze them or your broth will be bitter. If you don’t have these ingredients you can buy ‘hondashi‘ powder and it will work just fine.
Add the bamboo shoots, and for every kilogram of shoots add 2 tablespoons each of sake, mirin, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Salt to taste. Simmer until the flavor is as rich as you like. Before the bamboo gets too soft, add seaweed if you like and season to finish.