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竹笋 – Bamboo Shoots
There is a good chance you have eaten bamboo. It is common in many Asian dishes and soups. Unlike certain cane plants you can’t just cut a bamboo stem and eat it raw. By that time in its life it has become too woody. We do eat the bamboo shoot but only after it is cooked or pickled/fermented. Bamboo is one of the common foods with toxic chemicals we need to be aware of in its raw form. Hence, we peel off the exterior before boiling it.
Since it might be a new ingredient for cooking at home it is good to know that you can purchase it canned at your local Asian grocery store. Canned bamboo is pre-cooked so at this point you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals. Once cooked it has a sweet, earthy taste and retains a slight crunch to it.
And how does it compare to other vegetables we have more experience cooking with?
While bamboo is a member of the grass family, when consumed as food it is considered a vegetable. In order to understand bamboo in terms of nutritional value lets see how it stacks up. Compared with cooked bamboo at between 5-8 % protein a cup of cooked lima beans has around 23% protein. Source: Nutrition Facts for Bamboo Shoots
If you want to add it to your soups, make some egg rolls or toss it in a stir fry then check out the Omnivore’s Cookbook: Bamboo Shoots (竹笋, Zhú Sǔn) – Omnivore’s Cookbook