It’s Foodie Tuesday!
Bamboo is one super plant. Its beauty, strength, and grace is the stuff of romantic legends and constantly depicted in different forms of Asian art. It is actually a species of grass, one that grows tall and abundantly, and really, really fast, so fast that you can actually watch it grow, as fast as 3 feet in 24 hours! It is inexpensive and hardly needs any help at all to flourish, and is such a valuable and sustainable resource.
Bamboo is used extensively all throughout Asia and other parts of the world where it grows not only as an extremely versatile construction material, but also as a food source. Bamboo shoots are found in a lot of different dishes from different Asian countries. They have an earthy fragrance, a mildly bitter taste, and a slight crunchy bite that adds a delightful texture to dishes. I would normally see it sold sliced or shredded and par-broiled, but they’re also available canned.
It is a humble ingredient, usually playing a supporting role or bit part in countless curries, spring rolls, broths, and stir-fries, and top-billed in but a few salads and soups. I grew up eating it in a simple peasant-style vegetable dish that my Mom liked to make — dinengdeng (a. k. a. throw-a-bunch-of-vegetables-in-a-pot) which is flavored with ginger, a piece of fried fish, and a few splashes of fish sauce or salted anchovies. It’s my favorite way to enjoy bamboo shoots, but I also love it in Chinese-style stir-fries.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a late supper at a friend’s home, and I found bamboo shoots incorporated in the traditional Filipino nilagang baka (slow-cooked beef in broth), which is essentially chunks of beef left on the stove to boil until fork tender, then adding some potatoes and/or leafy vegetables in the end. It is very unusual to find bamboo shoots in this dish, but its addition made for a novel and flavorful variation.