It’s been perfect cycling weather with highs in the 70s and gorgeous cerulean blue skies. Spring is here. I love reverse engineering recipes and after some fascinating conversations of her delectable gastronomic tour of Tokyo with Thai cuisine guru Miranti, aka the High Heel Gourmet, I’ve been itching to try my hand at 竹の子ご飯 takenoko gohan (bamboo shoot rice) which is a version of 炊き込み takikomi gohan (basically Japanese mixed rice/rice pilaf) involving fresh bamboo shoots usually including shiitake and often 油揚げ aburaage (fried tofu) too. Takenoko gohan is seasonal and usually associated with Spring so since the stars are aligned, why not try my hand at this fresh, deceptively simple dish? Luckily for me, my local Japanese market carries fresh bamboo shoots that they’ve already trimmed and boiled in rice bran treated water (apparently this neutralizes the hydrocyanic acid found in bamboo shoots) for me so all I have to do is cook them any way I like. If your market doesn’t boil them for you, you can also find fresh bamboo shoots that have already been boiled in rice bran and vacuum-packed in the refrigerator section. Those of us who have only eaten canned bamboo shoots may be wondering why you would go out of your way to create a dish around bamboo shoots but that’s akin to treating beef jerky as a representative of ribeye steak. Fresh bamboo has a satisfyingly tender yet crisp texture with a mild creaminess. It also absorb flavors and seasonings really well so when you cook them in a savory dashi broth flavored with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and earthy shiitake mushrooms you may never want to eat tinny bamboo shoots again. While you can make this with plain aburaage, I like the sweetly savory flavor of 稲荷揚げ inariage (the fried tofu pockets used to make 稲荷寿司 inarizushi that have been simmered in dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar) which can also be found in the refrigerator section of most well-stocked Asian markets or in the canned section as well. I prefer the refrigerated ones as they tend to have a better texture (the canned inariage can be mushy as well as too sweet for my tastes). So revel in your guilt-free bowl of Spring cuz 8 oz of bamboo contains a measly 24 calories, 3.2 g of protein, 3.2 g of carbs and 2.4 g of fiber 🙂
Good things to know …
1) What if I can’t find fresh or freshly boiled bamboo shoots? If your only option is canned bamboo shoots I’d give this recipe a pass as while one of the perks of bamboo is that it soaks up all the flavors from the broth so well that also means that the metallic can taste and salty preservative liquid will also be soaked into your tinned bamboo shoots 😦
2) In the photo above you’ll notice a white residue in the bamboo shoot which is leftover rice bran from the boiling process. While it’s definitely edible, the gritty texture is not really enjoyable so just rinse it out before cutting up your shoots.
3) Sake is pretty easy to get a hold of these days but mirin can still be difficult to find if you don’t have a well-stocked Asian market. For this recipe you can substitute a 3:1 mixture of sake and sugar (3 tbsp sake + 1 tbsp sugar = 4 tbsp mirin substitute).
4) Why pour the seasonings over the toppings instead of mixing them with the stock for a nice homogenous base to flavor your ingredients? The seasoning liquids will easily mix with the stock and rice with the steaming process and I find that by pouring the seasonings onto the toppings first, they get to soak up more of the flavors that way.
2 c uncooked sushi rice
2 c kombudashi (kombu seaweed kelp dashi) stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
2 shiitake medium-sized mushrooms, stemmed and in 1/4-inch slices
4 pieces 稲荷揚げ inariage (seasoned inarizushi tofu pockets) or plain aburaage (fried tofu), julienned
8 oz fresh bamboo shoots, in 2 x 1 x 1/4-inch slivers
Rinse rice with cold tap water till the water runs clear ~2-3 times. I like to squeeze the rice between my fingers like I’m making a snowball with one hand while I’m rinsing the rice as this will polish the grains a little and help release the white rice powder from them. You just want to squeeze but not crush as some of you stronger
cyborgs people out there can literally crumble rice which will give you smooshed rice.
In a large donabe, 4 quart pot or rice cooker let rice soak in stock for ~20 minutes then top with mushrooms, inariage, and bamboo shoots. Pour soy sauce, sake, and mirin over toppings and cook rice over low heat if cooking on stove or with white rice setting if using a rice cooker. The stove method will take ~30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes then fluff rice and serve. Makes 6 servings.
**Nutritional estimate for 1 serving: 261 calories, 6.2 g protein, 2.2 g fiber, 0.7 g fat, 57 g carbohydrates, and 18% of the RDA for iron