Spring into the season with bamboo shoots

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Boiled bamboo shoots with chicken, foreground, and chirashi sushi with bamboo shoots and beef

In the time when we can all feel spring in the air, one food that well represents the season is bamboo shoots. Junko Ota, a cooking instructor at Tokyo Gas Co.’s food information center, showed us the secrets of boiling bamboo shoots, along with recipes for two dishes that showcase this seasonal ingredient.

“Freshly cooked bamboo shoots have a great aroma like freshly boiled corn, with a slightly bitter taste, and are different from the precooked ones that are sold in stores,” Ota said. “It is a food that helps us sense the coming of spring.”

The bamboo shoots used in these recipes need to be boiled at home.

“Because the rice bran covers the surface of the water, the whole thing can easily boil over, so be careful,” Ota said. If rice bran is not available, use water that was used to wash rice — which should look milky — instead of clear water fresh from the tap.

How to boil bamboo shoots

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 raw bamboo shoots
  • 20 grams rice bran
  • 2 red chili peppers

  • Directions:
  • 1. Cut off the very tips and roots of bamboo shoots. With the leafy covering on, make one vertical incision in one side of each bamboo shoot.
  • 2. Put the bamboo shoots, rice bran and red chili peppers into a pot with enough water to cover. Place an otoshi buta drop lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about an hour.
  • 3. Turn off the heat when a bamboo skewer can smoothly pierce the bamboo shoots. Leave the pot on the stove until the contents have cooled.
  • 4. Rinse the bamboo shoots in water, peel the skins and immerse shoots in cold water.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
[1]: Tips of bamboo shoots are cut off before boiling.
[2]: A vertical incision is made with the leafy coverings on.
[3]: Coverings are peeled off after boiling.

Boiled bamboo shoots are delicious even if eaten plain, but they also work well as part of a meal. In the first dish, the chicken helps add a richness to the flavor.

Bamboo shoots and chicken

  • Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 300 grams boiled bamboo shoots
  • 2 chicken thigh pieces
  • 600ml dashi stock
  • 3 tbsp usukuchi shoyu (light soy sauce)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 100 grams rehydrated wakame seaweed
  • Kinome leaves for garnish

  • Directions:
  • 1. Cut the tapering part of the bamboo shoots into four or six pieces. Cut the thicker ends into one-centimeter-thick half-moon shapes or cut a halved root in half lengthwise once and then along the width.
  • 2. Remove excessive fat from the chicken and cut it into bite-size pieces. Put the chicken into boiling water and blanch it. Blanching the chicken means it will create less foam when simmered.
  • 3. Remove strings from the wakame and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • 4. Put dashi stock, usukuchi shoyu, sugar and sake into a pot.
  • 5. Put the bamboo shoots and the chicken into the pot and boil on high heat. When they come to a boil, put a drop lid in place and continue to boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to boil for another five minutes.
  • 6. Add wakame and turn off the heat when the ingredients come to a boil. Place the ingredients on a plate and garnish with kinome leaf buds.

The second dish is chirashi sushi that creatively combines bamboo shoots and beef. The ginger brings a freshness to the dish and helps stimulate the appetite, while the colors of the dish inspire an image of spring.

Bamboo shoots chirashi sushi

  • Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 360ml rice
  • 120 grams boiled bamboo shoots
  • 200 grams sliced round steak beef
  • 1 tbsp dashi stock
  • 1 tbsp dashi stock
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 20 grams ginger
  • 20 grams watercress
  • Pickled ginger slices

  • Directions:
  • 1. Wash the rice and place it in a strainer. Cook the rice in 400 milliliters of water after letting it soak for at least 30 minutes. As the rice is used for sushi, only steam the rice for a short time. Mix 1½ tbsp of sugar, 2½ tbsp of rice vinegar and ½ tsp of salt to make vinegar for sushi. When the rice is cooked, combine the rice and the vinegar to make sumeshi rice.
  • 2. Thinly slice the bamboo shoots, put them into a bowl, and add dashi stock, 1 tsp of sugar and 2 tsp of shoyu. Wrap the ingredients in aluminum foil. Cook on high heat in a double-side broiling grill for five minutes. If a single-side broiling grill is used, mix the ingredients after five minutes of heating, then heat for another three minutes.
  • 3. Put sugar, sake and soy sauce in a pan and bring them to a boil. Add the beef, cut into bite-size pieces. Remove the beef from the pan after being boiled at high heat, which will prevent the beef from becoming too tough. Boil down the cooking liquid, and add the beef again when the liquid is thickened.
  • 4. Cut ginger into thin strips. Soak them in water and then strain them. Pluck the leaves of the watercress, and cut the stems into small rings. Mix the sumeshi rice with the strained bamboo shoots, beef, ginger and watercress stems, and place them on a plate. Sprinkle pieces of watercress leaves and ginger slices pickled in sweet vinegar over the dish.

“Boiling food is easy once you get used to it,” Ota said. “I strongly recommend enjoying the tastes these dishes have to offer, which are only available during this season.”