We had a good rain last Saturday, and the next day out in our country place (where we escape from the city at weekends) lots of bamboo shoots were coming up. With a little bit of altitude we’re later than low-lying areas, but generally get some in early May. Unfortunately the wild boar (inoshishi) like them too, and usually chew up the tender tips, leaving us a few scraps. This year, though, I don’t know what they were up to, but they must have found somewhere else to eat because there were lots of beautiful shoots, just appearing from the ground.
You dig them up – most is below the ground, and they can be a bit big – and boil them with the skin still on till they’re tender. Like sweet corn, which loses its sweetness soon after it’s picked as the sugar gets turned to starch or something, bamboo shoots freshly picked and cooked right away are quite special. There’s a unique aroma and a certain bitterness or astringency (aku) which you just can’t get from the canned ones, or even the plastic packs in the supermarkets. T cooks them with soy sauce and fish flakes, topped with those special sansho leaves, which is very nice; we make an Indonesian style curry from it at Raffles – only at this time of year.
PS (3rd June) Last week the inoshishi discovered those bamboo shoots and tore into the later emerging ones, making a right mess. Luckily we got ours first, and some survived to grow up into new plants. Bamboo grows incredibly fast.