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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

April 8, 2009 at 6:45 PM

Eat bamboo shoots first, ask questions later

If you frequent Chinese restaurants chances are you’ve eaten bamboo shoots — the canned version, no doubt. But often, when I’m out shopping in Asian markets, I see fresh bamboo shoots packed in plastic bags or loose in big rubber tubs, and though I occasionally consider buying some, I end up asking myself, “Yeah, but what are you going to do with them?” Last night I got my answer.

When I stopped by Chiso Kappo for an impromptu sushi dinner, chef Taichi Kitamura presented me with that rite of spring: the freshest of bamboo shoots, marinated and dressed with with shiro miso and yuzu juice. He also shared his recipe so that I — and maybe even you — might make his chilled bamboo-shoot salad at home. I can hear you now: “Oh, sure, Nance. I’ve got miso and yuzu juice, right next to the Heinz ketchup and the Minute Maid!” Well, I do, and I’m not bragging, I’m just sayin’.

Miso makes a great base for salad dressing, has multiple other uses and a lengthy shelf life, so I often keep a tub in the fridge. And the yuzu was one of those “buy one interesting thing you’ve never bought before” items I was talking about in last week’s Asian supermarket post. I purchased a small bottle at Maruta Shoten in Georgetown, though I’ve also seen it at Shoreline Central Market, and while it wasn’t cheap, a little spritz of that citrus flavor goes a long way. Anyway, today, after tasting Taichi’s chilled bamboo-shoot salad, I went in search of some fresh shoots:

Edible bamboo sprouting in its natural habitat

No, not that fresh. I went to my nearby 99 Ranch market. Too bad. They didn’t have any uncooked shoots like the kind Taichi used, but I (finally!) bought some of the precooked ones sold fresh in the produce section. They were selling the slender tips of the plant, finely shredded bamboo, and these squat ones which appear to be just about the size Taichi used:

Had I found uncooked shoots, he suggests first boiling them in water with a handful of brown rice (to get the bitterness out), until you can easily poke through it with a metal skewer (about 25-30 minutes). Then you’ve got to peel the rind and slice the shoots into two-inch pieces. After that, he cooks them for about 10 minutes in a mixture of homemade dashi prepared with konbu (dried seaweed) and katsuo (dried bonito flakes), adding a hit of light-color soy sauce, sweet mirin and sea salt. The shoots are then left to cool, marinating in the broth for several hours. When he’s ready to serve, he makes his dressing by simply mixing saikyo shiro miso (naturally sweet “white” soybean paste) and a few hits of the aforementioned yuzu juice.

Instead of following his instructions, I tweaked them, first rinsing and slicing the precooked shoots. Then I made a broth using a nasty little packet of katsuo dashi no moto — bouillion made with dried bonito and MSG (so if I get a splitting headache and you don’t hear from me tomorrow, you’ll know why), reconstituted with a cup of cold water. To give it a dash of extra flavor, I added a sprinkling of dried bonito flakes I had on hand. Next, a hit of light soy sauce, some extremely sweet mirin (which was probably about two years old and ready to be tossed), a dash of sea salt and a splash of dry sherry (to balance the uber-sweet mirin). Then I heated the shoots in the broth:

Here’s the done deal, dressed with a dash of miso and a few shakes from the yuzu juice-bottle. Not as good as Taichi’s, I’m sorry to say, but not half-bad, either:

So, has anybody seen any uncooked fresh bamboo shoots in our local markets? ‘Tis the season and all that. If so, where? Next time, I’m doing it the “right” way.

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