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How to Cook and Serve Bamboo Shoots

Fresh bamboo shoots

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Bamboo shoots slowly simmered have a delicate, bitter flavor and earthy aroma.

Fresh bamboo shoots can be sliced and boiled, sautéed or braised, and served as an accompaniment to meat and fish. They can be slow-cooked with other vegetables or stir-fried.

Fresh bamboo shoots
Fresh bamboo shoots

The crunchy texture of young, tender bamboo shoots makes them a great choice served as hors d’oeuvre or stand-alone vegetables. Served with a sauce, bamboo shoots will absorb the flavor of the sauce but still retain their own taste.

Young spring shoots begin to appear in mid-spring.

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How to choose bamboo shoots

  • Select bamboo shoots that are short with a wide base and are solid and heavy for their size.
  • Avoid soft, moldy, or cracked bamboo shoots or shoots that don’t smell fresh.

How to store bamboo shoots

  • Bamboo shoots will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks if they are unpeeled and wrapped in a paper towel.
  • Shoots that have been peeled will keep in the refrigerator for just 1 or 2 days.
  • Shoots that are exposed to sunlight will be bitter tasting.
Bamboo shoots
Use a knife to remove the brown husk

How to prepare bamboo shoots

  1. Bamboo shoots must be peeled off their brownish husk before eating. Use a knife to make a slit up the side of the shoot. Unwrap and discard the successive layers until you reach the pale edible core. Cut off and discard the pointed tip and fibrous base.
  2. Boiling: Place the shoot in a saucepan and cover with water and bring to a boil for 20 minutes; change the water and simmer until the shoots are tender. (This procedure will remove the hydrocyanic acid that gives bamboo its bitter taste.)
  3. If the shoots are still bitter, boil again in fresh water for 5 minutes and repeat until they have a more subtle flavor.
Bamboo shoot stir-fried with fish ball
Bamboo shoot stir-fried with fish ball

Bamboo shoots serving suggestions

  • Bamboo shoots are served after cooking.
  • Cut very young shoots into sticks, cubes, or slices and cook in lightly salted water for 30 minutes or until tender.
  • Cut into slices, sticks, cubes, or julienne and add to tuna or chicken salad.
  • Toss with fried rice or noodles.
  • Use to fill spring rolls or dumplings.
  • Dip in tempura batter and deep fry.
  • Marinate in rice vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
  • Cook in dashi sauce and serve.
  • Stir fry with vegetables and chicken.

Bamboo shoots flavor partners

  • Bamboo shoots have a flavor affinity for beef, chicken, cilantro, dashi, eggs, ginger, mirin, miso rice, rice noodles, scallions, sesame oil, shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, fish sauce, and tofu.

Bamboo shoots nutrition

  • Bamboo shoots are 94 percent water and are rich in vitamin B and phosphorus.
  • Because most of the content of bamboo shoots is water, shoots are most appreciated for their flavor, aroma, crisp texture, and natural look, not their nutritional value.
Bamboo shoot emerging from soil
Bamboo shoot or sprout emerging from the soil

Get to know bamboo

  • Bamboo is a tall woody grass that grows from underground rhizomes. Shoots are hollow stems or buds that form at ground level. Shoots are cone-shaped and measure about 2¾ inches (6.5 cm) in diameter at the base and about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) long at harvest. Each shoot is covered with overlapping scale-like leaves.
  • Bamboo is indigenous to Asia where they have been cultivated for thousands of years.
  • The bamboo shoot harvest is quick. Spring shoots are cut at the base just as they crack the ground. It is not unusual for bamboo to grow as much as 3 feet (90 cm) in a day.
  • There are more than 200 varieties of bamboo, not all of them are edible. The species Phyllostachys pubescens is the most commonly harvested for eating. In Japan, it is called mosochiku. The variety Phyllostachye dulcis is sweet and tender and very popular in China.
  • Bamboo shoots are eaten fresh, pickled, and dried in China, Japan, Korea, and most South-East Asian countries.
  • In Japan, bamboo shoots are called takenoko. In China, bamboo shoots are called sun ki.
  • There are three seasons for bamboo shoots: “winter” shoots are dug from the soil before they ever emerge—they are small and very tender; “spring” shoots are harvested young before they reach more than 10 inches (25 cm) tall, and “summer” shoots are harvested from a late-appearing bamboo variety in summer.
  • Spring bamboo shoots are chunky and pale. Winter shoots are small and elongated. Summer shoots are pencil-thin, asparagus-like shoots.
  • Cultivated bamboo shoots are often earthed up at the base—a blanching procedure that makes them less bitter.

There are several species of bamboo that can be used for food. The botanical name for the bamboo family is Phyllostachys.

Also of interest:

Asian Greens for Cool Weather Harvest

Chinese Vegetables Varieties

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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