Thursday, March 25, 2010

A story about bamboo shoots

This isn't a recipe post, I just wanted to tell you guys about an awesome thing I just discovered; fresh bamboo shoots are a-mazing!

I am lucky enough to live somewhere with a large asian population, and therefore a very well-stocked Chinatown. The little grocers carry everything from gooeyduck to lemongrass. A few weeks ago I came across a strange-looking item that the sign said was bamboo shoot. I have wanted to try it, espcially since I saw a recipe for kung pao chicken that called for it cut into little squares, and that seemed so much more appealing than the canned strips. Don't get me wrong, I have love for the canned strips. They are nearly calorie free and packed with fibre, and make an excellent addition to asian soup and stir-fries. But I could not turn down the opportunity to try the fresh version!

So I bought one and took it home. I was uncertain of how to handle it, and the poor thing ended up sitting in my vegetable drawer for a couple weeks. Then last week I was cleaning out the fridge and it was do or die time for my little bamboo shoot. I put it on a cutting board and weilded a large knife; no, that would not be the way to approach this creature. It needed a more delicate touch. I peeled the tough layers off the outside, using a paring knife to remove them at the stem, peeled and peeled and peeled until there was nothing left but a pale, naked, tender centre. This I chopped into little cubes, and proudly surveyed my work. Not without trepidation though; the smell was a little disturbing. Let's just say it smelled like something you don't expect or want your food to smell like. I was a little put off and scared, so I threw it in a tupperware with some salted water, like it comes in the cans, and banished it to the fridge once more.

Today I was feeling brave and pulled it out to make kung pao chicken.I threw it in with the rest of the veggies, unsure of how much cooking it would need if anything. At least it didn't smell weird anymore. After a few minutes of cooking, I sampled a peice to see how it was cooking...

and let me just say YUM. YUM-O. Deliciously tender yet crunchy, very mildly bamboo-y, it mostly just tasted like the sauce. But the texture was SO lovely. It added the perfect element to the dish, with the chicken and chewy noodles and tender veggies. I will definately be getting this again!

Also, as a side note, I recently tried fresh water chestnuts too. They are also WAY better than the canned ones, so crunchy and juicy and taste a bit like coconut. Who knew? Wht great fun to try new things, and how lucky am I to have these so afforadably available.

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