If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, you’ve undoubtedly heard of -and likely eaten -bamboo shoots.
Frequently found in Asian cuisine, many people adore bamboo shoots for their delicious flavor and the unique texture they bring to a wide variety of dishes.
So, how do you cook bamboo shoots? To cook bamboo shoots, first expose the tender core of the shoot. Next, soak them in cold water for about 30 minutes, and then boil them until you achieve the desired texture. You can eat bamboo shoots after boiling or continue cooking them using a variety of methods, such as frying.
Bamboo shoots steal the limelight just like other Asian ingredients (lotus roots, kikurage, etc.). You’ve enjoyed them at many restaurants, but now we bet you’re ready to dine on them at home.
If you wish to know more about bamboo shoots and how to cook them, we have covered everything for you.
What Are Bamboo Shoots?
Bamboo is a grass plant and is known to be the fastest-growing plant in the world.
The tender sprouts grow first, and then they lignify to form shoots. These shoots can then grow up to 40 meters in height.
The plant has a versatile growth region – you can find it in almost all areas with a humid climate.
So, they grow abundantly in the tropics and sub-tropics. This makes it of very common usage in the Asian countries, in more than the culinary domain.
Bamboo shoots are tender, young sprouts of the bamboo plant.
Also known as bamboo sprouts, people consume them as part of various dishes with different cooking methods.
What To Remember Before You Cook Bamboo Shoots
There are multiple ways to cook bamboo shoots, depending on what the recipe asks for.
But, before that, some common prerequisites must be followed before cooking these shoots. This is irrespective of the cooking method the recipe demands!
It also helps improve the edibility of the shoots and ensures that they are toxin-free.
Heat The Bamboo Shoots
It’s very important to note that you can’t eat uncooked bamboo shoots. Every preparation method used must include some form of heat.
This is because raw bamboo shoots contain a substance called hydrogenic cyanide that is released when ingested. It can cause poisoning and pose other health threats.
Remove The Outer Shell
To cook the shoots, you need to remove the tough outer shell. This toughness acts as a barrier, preventing external factors from reaching the core.
To make the most out of your cooking, it is essential that you peel the shoot’s leaves and expose the tender core.
Additionally, you also need to shave off the bottom part of the shoot.
We’ll cover the process for prepping and boiling your bamboo shoots in more detail below.
How Do You Cook Bamboo Shoots?
As mentioned, it’s imperative that you boil bamboo shoots before consuming them. Let’s break down the full process from start to finish.
To prepare and boil bamboo shoots, follow these steps:
- Peel the shoots and reveal the core. Cut off the bottom part of the shoots.
- Soak for 30-40 minutes. This will usually remove the excess bitterness, if any.
- Wash the shoots and cut them, if necessary. You may wish to cut them so they better fit into your pot or to cut them to the size you want for the final dish.
- Add the shoots into an instant pressure cooker.
- Take some rice in a bowl and wash them to get a milky texture to the water. Drain the rice, and add the rinsed water into the pressure cooker. Make sure that there is enough water to cover the shoots.
- If you have a rice bran packet, you can add that into the water and skip the above step. This will also help remove bitterness in the shoots.
- You can add some red chili peppers if you wish to make the water more anti-bacterial and strip the bamboo of its tannic flavor.
- Close the lid and the vent and set the timer (ideally around 30 minutes, but varies with the species) under high pressure.
- Once boiled, rinse the shoots. The shoots are now ready to eat or to be cooked further.
They are safe to eat right after boiling and taste fantastic sprinkled with spices.
You may also choose to boil or cook them further, based on how you like them. There are a multitude of dishes that bamboo shoots pair wonderfully with!
A health-conscious option is adding them into a simple vegetable medley with lean protein and, of course, flavorful spices.
How To Cook Canned Bamboo Shoots
Canned bamboo shoots are usually pre-cooked, after which they are packed in water. In the market, different kinds of canned bamboo shoots are available.
You can find whole shoots, chopped shoots, grated shoots, and even sliced shoots.
You can also find (canned) shoots that are fermented with different spices in them.
Since these shoots are already cooked, you can add them to your recipes right out of the can (but drain the liquid first) without having to boil them. This saves you a lot of time.
But, keep in mind the brand you choose. We suggest purchasing a trusted brand (possibly organic) and checking the label to see what liquid they are preserved in.
Also, make sure you check the expiration date printed on the can.
This might sound very basic, but a lot of people neglect this! With bamboo shoots especially, this is a risky thing to do.
While the taste might only get slightly compromised, expired shoots can pose many health threats due to the toxins they could release.
How To Eat Bamboo Shoots
After extensive research, we have compiled a list of other alternatives to eat your bamboo shoots.
So, if you are bored of the usual boiling or stir-frying, and want to try something new, here are some options for you:
- Once boiled, you can cut the shoots into different shapes (julienne, slices, cubes, or sticks) and add them to a salad.
- You can also slightly stir fry it (after boiling, of course) and put it in noodles or fried rice.
- It is also fun to innovate the dumplings or spring rolls recipes by adding these shoots.
- We suggest you try the shoots dipped in tempura batter and then deep-fried for a fun evening snack.
- A famous way to consume bamboo shoots is after marinating in rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
- You can also cook the boiled bamboo shoots in dashi sauce if you have some time in hand.
- Another easy way (with no compromise on flavor) to consume bamboo shoots is by stir-frying them with chicken or vegetables.
Keep in mind that the above list is certainly recommended but not exhaustive! Given bamboo’s subtle taste, you can pair it with a wide variety of ingredients.
For instance, bamboo shoots pair very well with beef, cilantro, eggs, tofu, miso rice, dashi, fish sauce, chicken, soy sauce, scallions, ginger, rice noodles, shiitake mushrooms, and mirin sesame oil.
So, the next time you wish to cook bamboo shoots, keep the above options in mind.
How To Tell If Bamboo Shoots Have Gone Bad
Like every other ingredient, bamboo shoots can go bad. And when this happens, it is important to identify it and ensure that they are not consumed.
Irrespective of the form of storage, all bamboo shoots show similar signs when they go bad.
It is necessary to know these and look for them if you have stored your shoots for longer than usual!
The shoots have high moisture content in them, and thus, the most common sign would be to look for mold on them. This is also the easiest way to identify.
However, you should know that these molds can grow under the bamboo’s skin. If that is the case, you will not know until you peel the skin off.
Scent can be a really clear indicator for if a food is past its prime.
If the bamboo shoots have an off smell, like strong ammonia, it is best to throw them away.
Of course, you might waste them, but that is better than consuming them and harming your health.
The bamboo shoots could also become softer and mushier than usual. When you touch them, if they feel mushy, they have most probably gone bad.
Their color also gets darker than they usually are.
Note that if you store them in water, the color might be preserved but don’t assume they’re safe to eat only based on their hue!
If the color looks normal, but you feel that the shoots might have gone bad or the canned ones are past their expiration date, rely on the other key characteristics listed above.
It’s always better to be safe than sick!
Unfortunately, if one (or more) exists, it is best to discard the shoots and get fresh ones.
Also, to avoid this situation entirely, we suggest you buy fresh bamboo shoots and use them right away, instead of storing them for later use.
This would also let you savor the authentic taste and texture, which is usually lost when stored and consumed later.
What Do Bamboo Shoots Taste Like?
Many factors like taste, color, texture, and smell are responsible for giving a beloved food its taste recognition.
So, to better understand bamboo shoots, we have given you a detailed explanation about each of these factors.
Bamboo shoots have a very subtle flavor. It has a mild woody, nutty and earthy flavor. Some people also say they get reminded of water chestnuts.
Note that if you find the shoots extremely bitter (it is safe to ignore the mild remnants of its bitterness), it calls for some concern.
Either it has been refrigerated excessively long or has not been cooked fully.
In the case of the former, we advise you to throw the shoots away, as it could pose multiple threats to your health.
If the latter is the case, read on to know more on how to cook it the right and safe way to improve bitterness.
Also, we would like you to note that you would relish its taste better when you eat it fresh.
Unfortunately, with time, some species lose their authentic taste. So, we advise you to use the shoots right when you buy them.
Or, if you can’t cook them immediately, refrigerate them so that you can preserve them.
Raw bamboo shoots have a unique smell. However, when boiled and fermented, they emit a very mild and pungent smell, like that of ammonia.
This should not be of much concern, so long as it’s mild and you can only smell it only when you bring it close to your mouth.
If the pungent smell gets really strong, i.e., if you can smell it from across the room, then the shoots have gone bad. In such cases, it is advisable to not consume them.
More than the flavor, people are crazy about bamboo for its texture! It has a very firm and crunchy texture, owing to the fibers present in the shoot.
This could be the probable reason why a lot of critics draw similarities between these shoots and water chestnuts.
Even when canned, these shoots remain crisp for a very long time.
This is a feature, unlike most other canned vegetables, that become very soggy when canned.
Based on the different stages, bamboo shoots can be of different colors. Primarily bamboos are an evergreen plant.
So, their raw shoots boast of a pale green to cream-yellow tint.
The outer leaves are more green, and the inner core has a more yellow shade.
With time, the inner core becomes darker and darker. This is another important factor when determining if the bamboo shoot is edible or stale!
When canned, due to the pre-processing, they become pale yellow.
Upon drying, the shoots have a color between the beige yellow and the dark brown shades. These dried shoots are rarely used on the culinary side.
How Long Do Bamboo Shoots Last?
The shelf life of bamboo shoots differs depending on how and where they’re stored.
Keep reading to learn which storage method is ideal for your needs.
At Room Temperature
The shoots would ideally last for around a week.
However, exposing them to air, sunlight, and other heat sources could reduce their life due to the oxidation that they cause.
Bamboo shoots can last for up to two weeks in the fridge.
However, this duration too could decrease if they are peeled, and only the core is refrigerated.
Please note that if you store it for over the above-mentioned duration, they would still remain safe to eat but could lose their taste and texture.
Some species are also noted to turn bitter with time, despite refrigeration.
Bamboo shoots can last up to 3 months. But, make sure that you cook them before freezing, as raw shoots don’t respond to freezing very well.
Also, note that you may have to compromise on the taste and texture when you freeze them, as these are lost when the freezing temperatures are reached.
Fresh bamboo shoots from the garden or grocery store take quite some time to prep and cook before you eat them.
Nothing beats the taste of fresh food, but if you’re in a hurry, you can cut to the chase and buy canned bamboo shoots. The final product will still be very tasty!
Whatever you choose, adding them to your recipes will add a unique texture you’re sure to love. So, do not shy away from trying out these flavorful shoots in a recipe this week.
We hope that this article helped you know more about bamboo shoots and how to cook them!