These conical, creamy-coloured tender shoots are cut from the bamboo plant when they’re about 15cm/6in long. They have a mild flavour and crunchy texture and are widely used to bulk out Asian stir-fries, soups and other dishes.
You can often find fresh bamboo shoots in Asian food stores, but they’re not easy to prepare as they’re protected by many layers of overlapping, brown husk covered in fine, sharp hairs. Fresh bamboo shoots are available year-round, but the most prized are the smaller winter shoots. Shoots canned in water are an excellent substitute for fresh shoots and have the advantage of being ready prepared and perfectly safe to eat. Look for whole canned shoots, if possible, in preference to pre-sliced.
Some Asian shops may also sell vacuum-packed shoots as well as pickled, salted and dried shoots.
Fresh bamboo shoots contain toxins that are destroyed by cooking, so be sure to blanch or boil them before use. Canned shoots are best rinsed before use. If they have a strong odour or tinny flavour, boil in fresh water for a few minutes. Dried bamboo shoots need long soaking and slow, separate cooking before being included in a recipe.
Article by Clarissa Hyman