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
Today at lunch I was reminded of what a special time of year this is. This gorgeous katakuchi bowl was presented with simmered octopus, fava beans, and fuki. Fuki is the stem of a bog rhubarb. It is no relation to the rhubarb I grew up with in Minnesota. It looks like a thin celery and has a somewhat similar texture, although more refined and elegant.
This time of year when sansai (mountain vegetables), like kogomi ferns, spring up from under the leaves that have covered the ground over winter. Angelica trees start to bud and the tender greens, tara no me, are harvested. And one of my favorites is the bitter butterbur, fuki no to, that is best when served as tempura. Some of these can be blanched and served with a splash of soy sauce.
If you are visiting Japan this spring, be sure to have a meal at a tempura restaurant that serves sansai. If you go out to an izakaya, ask them if they have any dishes with sansai. Some sansai are only around for a few weeks, so carpe diem.