Bamboo – It’s not just for chopsticks and pandas!
There’s a lot of bamboo talk these days, about “sustainable” flooring and socks and shirts.
And, we panda lovers know that it’s what wild pandas eat, although zoos will supplement their diet with other things like high fiber biscuits and sweet potatoes.
For people, there are bamboo shoots and bamboo pith, the latter having little to do with the bamboo plant.
Bamboo shoots are a familiar ingredient in Chinese dishes, particularly things like Buddha’s Delight, that old fashioned mélange which vegetarians ate while everyone else dug into chicken chow mein. Unfortunately, most people are only familiar with the canned product, pretty pedestrian.
Fresh bamboo shoots are a different story entirely.
Crisp and tasty, they make a great addition to salads and stir fries, and are also delicious braised.They can occasionally be found fresh in supermarkets, either soaking in brined water or plastic, which are fine but it’s better to purchase at an Asian markets with better turnover.
Bamboo pith, also known as bamboo mushroom or veiled angel or stinkhorn, is rarely seen in the United States other than at the most genuine and best Chinese restaurants. It actually looks like a tubular veil, the only part of the mushroom which is eaten, and has an almost nutty taste, usually served in soup or with other vegetables.
It is one of the items which myMEGusta cannot resist ordering on those rare occasions when it’s available, and it’s one of her favorite aspects of travel to China.
This vegetable has nothing to do with bamboo other than the fact that it grows on agricultural waste like bamboo leaves, among other things like soybean pods, and corn and willow leaves.
It used to be considered a delicacy, found only in the wild, and enjoyed in the most celebratory and exclusive banquet dishes. But, while it’s still pricey, bamboo pith has been cultivated in the Fujian province in China since 1979, making it commercially viable. If you’re in China, you might find it fresh at a super-upscale restaurant, but it is usually sold dried.
Purchase it at Asian markets and on the internet, where it was recently seen for $31.30 for 8 ounces, expensive, but goes a long way once soaked and reconstituted. And it’s REALLY good!