When someone talks about bamboo, the first image that may crop up would be of pandas in the wild. Some people who grow bamboo for its beauty may also pipe in that it has many horticultural uses. And for many, this versatile grass is well known as a building material, and is used to make not only housing facilities and various equipment, but is also a major component of kitchen utensils such as chopsticks and chopping boards. Some people have even created bamboo toilet paper!
I was shopping at a Chinese supermarket a couple days back when I chanced upon an example of one other use for this versatile group of plants. Nestled next to a wall was a bin overflowing with whitish conical bamboo shoots! More specifically, they were the tips of bamboo shoots called "Winter Bamboo Shoots", which a quick google search said are dug up and cut during winter, even before the shoots have a chance to emerge into the open air. Each of the shoot tips was fat and heavy, and at $6.99 per pound (or more than US $3 per kg), they were not exactly cheap.
Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox, a change from the unlucky Year of the Rat, and if ever there was a time to celebrate the turning of a season, then it would be now. So thinking, I bought one of the shoots, and today we will be preparing it for dinner using a recipe that I found in the New York Times. I posted the recipe below, and I look forward to having my first taste of bamboo ;-)
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 cups julienned winter bamboo shoots (see note)
1 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons rice wine
2 tablespoons chopped chives
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Pour boiling water over shrimp and soak 30 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Set aside.
- Make a paste of the cornstarch and a little chicken stock; stir in remaining stock. Set aside.
- Rinse and drain winter bamboo shoots. Using julienne blade of a food processor, process bamboo shoots. Dry well in a cloth towel.
- Heat oil to 375 degrees F. Add bamboo shoots and fry 5 to 7 minutes, until bamboo begins to turn golden. Drain off all but one tablespoon of the oil and set aside bamboo to drain.
- Add shrimp and stir-fry in the remaining tablespoon of oil.
- Add rice wine, chopped chives, sugar, salt, sesame oil and chicken stock mixture.
- Return bamboo shoots to mixture and cook until liquid has been absorbed.