Takenoko bamboo shoots are in season at the moment. Many will go foraging in the mountains to harvest these. It is sad to report that recently four elderly have been killed by bears while collecting bamboo shoots in Akita prefecture. Here is an article from The Japan Times:
My father-in-law recently went to Yamanashi prefecture, just West of Tokyo, and came to our home with a large bag of bamboo shoots that he boiled at home. We have been feasting on tender bamboo.
I’ve harvested in the past with my family in Yamagata. It’s hard work so I am all the more appreciative to receive this.
One of our favorite preparations is takenoko gohan. Simply cook rice with dashi instead of water. We add roughly chopped bamboo shoots to the pot before cooking and then mixing it into the rice after it has steamed.
My favorite dish from our dinner was the simplest to make. Cucumbers and bamboo shoots topped with a dressing of taberu ra-yu, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Perfect with an ice cold beer. It will now be on our table every year when bamboo shoots are in season.
Bamboo shoots simmered in dashi and garnished with powdered katsuobushi is also easy to prepare.
The last dish we made for this was a Chinese-style of bamboo shoots, green peppers, and beef stir-fried with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, sake, and chicken stock.
takenoko bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots are in season at the moment. They are also in season in the fall. But I associate the delicate flavor and aroma with spring. I was at a friend’s house on the weekend. Her mother, who is an excllent cook, had just cleaned and boiled a bamboo shoot and had brought half to my friend’s house. My dear friend then gave us half of that. We brought it home and made takenoko gohan. When you cook the rice in the pot with added ingredients it is called takikomigohan.
Shinji cut up the tender bamboo shoots and put it in the donabe with dashi, sake, soy sauce, and deep-fried tofu. It is garnished with sanshō leaves which we plucked from grandpa’s sanshō bush in his rooftop garden. It was so good I ate three bowls.
In the supermarkets in Tokyo, you can find both fresh bamboo shoots, complete with the skin on it. Or you can find already boiled and peeled of the hard skin.
Some more inspiration from these recipes:
take bamboo 竹
Miso cucumbers, bamboo shoots, and field mustard pickles from Nakagawaya.
Nakagawaya at Tsukiji Market, a purveyor of pickles, has a colorful array of vegetables pickled in salt, vinegar, miso, rice bran, kōji, miso, and more. The selection changes throughout the year and this time of year one of my favorites, pickled takenoko (bamboo shoots) are available. Takenoko are boiled and then pickled in a light soy sauce marinade, but there is no change in color to the tender shoot. Nanohana, field mustard, retain a bit of bitterness, a signature trait of many spring vegetables. The other pickle above, on the left, is cucumbers in a miso paste that we picked up while traveling in Niigata.
Hasu (lotus root) stalks pickled in vinegar.
Nakagawaya has an impressive variety of pickles, many from different regions of Japan, like the smoked daikon pickle, iburigakko, from Akita prefecture or Nara-zuké, gourds pickled in saké lees for 2-3 years from Nara. These lovely pink-blushed pickles are young lotus root stalks. We love serving this with sashimi.
The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable. We love having pickles on our table, no matter the time of day. It is a great way to add a vegetable to any meal.
Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-5