Bamboo shoots are young sprouts of the plant of the same name. They are a popular cooking ingredient in many Asian countries due to their tastiness as well as rich health benefits.
Just like how ingredients from Asia such as kikurage and lotus root are becoming more popular in the Western world, more and more people are starting to realise the benefits of these amazing sprouts in cuisine.
What are bamboo shoots?
Bamboo is a type of grass plant, and the Latin name is Bambusa. It is the fastest-growing plant in the world. The tender sprouts hatch from the soil, which then lignifies.
Shoots can grow up to 35 m. The leaves are lanceolate and have short petioles. In appearance, they resemble young giant corn cobs protruding from the ground, only of a greyish-blue colour.
It is interesting that the multi-flowered spikelets appear once in a lifetime, after which the entire group of plants dies off and grows again from the preserved roots and seeds. Bamboo is found in almost all subtropical and tropical regions, in places with a humid climate.
Are bamboo shoots edible?
For many in the Western world, this is a rather exotic product. Many people will grow indoor bamboo plants for decorative purposes. However, Asians have been eating it for a very long time.
If you have never tasted these tender and crunchy sprouts, you may be wondering what do they taste like? We can say that they taste like corn in some way. Once cooked, the shoots can be very sweet.
In cooking, this delicacy is usually used fresh, dried or canned. Surprisingly, it is easy to find this “exotic” ingredient as their canned and packaged versions are usually found on the shelves of many global brand supermarkets. However, it is more difficult to find it fresh,
Are the shoots healthy to eat?
The health benefits of these shoots are obvious because, as a source of potassium, they support a normal heart rate and blood pressure.
Furthermore having these sprouts in your diet will provide you with phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and iron.
A balanced complex of essential amino acids has a beneficial effect on the human body and it is a nutritional part of bamboo shoots:
- Arginine improves heart function, transports nitric oxide throughout the body and normalizes the functioning of the nervous system.
- Valine stimulates metabolic processes in muscles, increases blood sugar levels and corrects the amount of nitric oxide in the body.
- Histidine prevents allergic reactions and accelerates regeneration processes in the body.
- Isoleucine and leucine improve the condition of muscle fibres, increase their tone, and accelerate metabolic processes.
- Lysine accelerates bone regeneration, has an antiviral effect, stimulates collagen production.
- Methionine prevents the development of atherosclerosis, accelerates growth and improves hair quality and eliminates edema (swelling of the body).
- Threonine stimulates the production of glycine and serine, cleanses the liver of toxins and supports the function of all organic systems and organs.
- Tryptophan prevents the development of insomnia, depression and nervousness.
- Phenylalanine helps fight stress and prevents the development of migraines.
Despite the fact that 90% of the composition of bamboo shoots is water, we read that some argue that these vegetables are in the top 5 of the most useful products for the human body. This is due to its huge range of health benefits as we have read above.
External use of the plant also helps accelerate wound healing and prevents the development of purulent-inflammatory processes.
Young bamboo shoots are so popular in Asian cuisine that the composition of the product has been studied raw and after cooking.
The calorie content of the young plants is 27 kcal per 100 g, of which:
- Proteins: 2.6 g
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 5.2 g
- Dietary fibre: 2.2 g
- Ash: up to 0.9 g
- Water: 91 g
The amount of mono- and disaccharides (sugars) depends on the growing conditions, which range from 3 g per 100 g.
How many portions can you eat in a day?
We cannot say the exact number, but the preferred portion would be only up to one cup a day.
This is due to the fact that one small cup can consist up of a high percentage of ascorbic acid, vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, A, E, and PP, beta-carotene, as well as potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper and manganese, iron, phosphorus and sodium.
Even if they are tasty (as they always are!), try not to overeat.
Are bamboo shoots poisonous to humans?
Certain types of shoots can be poisonous if they are not properly cooked. However, we recommend you to also be careful when:
- If you are pregnant. Consuming it during this time can tone the uterus and provoke bleeding.
- Children of Asian countries consume the sprouts starting from the age of 1.5 years old, so they are not harmful to them. However, you should be careful not to immediately introduce a new dish into the diet for European babies under 3 years old, since it is not known what kind of reaction it will cause.
Are bamboo shoots safe for pets?
Young plant shoots serve as food for many animals. For example, bamboo is a real treat for pandas.
Indeed, canines can also eat these vegetables, making it a perfect and healthy treat for both you and your dog. They can act as a supplementary low-calorie treat for canines.
While they are not a vital piece of a canine’s eating regimen, they are a solid option for those pets that are overweight or are on exacting pancreatic or diabetic weight control plans.
How to store and how long do they last?
Fresh bamboo shoots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. However, if you keep them for a longer time, be aware that the sprouts may taste bitter.
You can preserve them for periods longer than 2 weeks by freezing boiled shoots in the freezer.
Canned versions can remain fresh for almost a year, but just make sure you check the printed expiry date on the can upon purchase. The date that is printed there will show you how long the sprouts will continue to be fresh. After the expiration date, you can still eat them, but the quality and taste may no longer be the same.
You can also choose to pickle them to preserve them longer. Pickled bamboo shoots are a very valuable product due to their longer shelf life and high consumer qualities. Today this delicacy, due to its long shelf life, has grown to become more popular in more countries outside of Asia.
How can you tell if they have gone bad?
Just like any other plant, the sprouts can go bad, especially if it’s not stored properly or it has past their shelf life.
A big red flag is the smell of the bamboo shoots. You will smell the likes of ammonia once it is no longer good to eat.
If you are going to store it at room temperature or in the refrigerator, you should always leave the outer shell. The skin is very tough and acts as a barrier preventing air from reaching the meat of the plant. Once the air hits the meat, oxidation will begin and they will start to deteriorate.
How do you eat bamboo shoots?
Spring is the season for the young succulent shoots. In China and most part of Asia during this time, you can buy them at any store or market. In the rest of the world, it is also quite possible to find them, if you try.
The Chinese cook the sprouts with meat such as chicken, beef and pork. They can be added as an additional vegetable in stir-fry dishes.
The crispy, slightly sweet flesh of the sprouts is also great for use in a variety of soups, salads, or stews. Moreover, vegetable side dishes with young shoots of this plant are not uncommon.
You can also try stewing them with mushrooms or cabbage. Once you give this a try, we trust you will remember this delightful combination for a long time.
Experienced chefs advise not to boil bamboo shoots for too long. This is because prolonged heat treatment will deteriorate their taste and destroy the nutrients that this food product is so rich in.
As a tip, add them to the dish last to preserve the crispy texture.
The beneficial properties of these sprouts have long been appreciated by vegetarians in Asia who use this product as a side dish, adding a little oil, pepper or soy sauce.
Can I eat bamboo shoots raw?
We suspect that young sprouts of almost any bamboo (there are thousands of species) can be eaten raw in small quantities. However, due to the low toxicity of some shoots, it is necessary to cook them if they are to be eaten in large quantities.
So, if in doubt, we would recommend that all types be boiled to remove any toxins.
The number of poisonous species is limited, and boiling the shoots with several changes of water would remove this risk. For this reason, you should keep this tip in mind if you do intend to eat the sprouts in the wild during camping.
What is the difference between fresh and canned bamboo shoots?
As a recap, the sprouts are simply new bamboo buds that are harvested before they grow hard and fibrous. They are usually available in 2 forms: fresh and canned.
The fresh ones are usually sold in whole pieces and are perfect for frying.
Canned ones are pre-cooked and packed in water. You can find canned shoots that are sold whole, chopped or sliced. For making sour and spicy soup, we recommend you getting grated ones.
For packaged versions, you can also find ones that are fermented and have had various spices added to them.
From a health perspective, the best option is, of course, to use fresh ones. This is because they keep all the good nutrients, vitamins and minerals inside.
How to prepare bamboo shoots?
Fresh bamboo must be heat-treated and cannot be eaten raw. This is because some of its species contain the substance linamarin, which when digested releases hydrogen cyanide, which can lead to severe poisoning.
Other types of bamboo can be bitter when eaten raw but turn into a normal taste after boiling, cooking and frying. We recommend you boil fresh bamboo for 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, canned ones should be washed and at least fried before official use.
How to remove the bitterness of fresh shoots?
Many bamboos are bitter and must be boiled before eating.
However, there are also varieties that can be eaten raw. These have fresh stems that are sweet and crunchy. Some of the sweet varieties are Dendrocalamus, Phyllostachys and Bambusa.
How to peel fresh bamboo shoots?
Fresh crispy shoots are cut as soon as they emerge from the ground. The bamboo has a record growth rate – it grows by as much as 90 centimetres in just a day! Because of this, the delicate flesh of bamboo shoots is usually hidden in a large number of layers of the bamboo.
To peel it, you need to cut a small incision on the outer shell of the bamboo all the way down on one side. Then, by using both hands, grab each side of the outer shell and peel away the skin.
You need to repeat this step until you reach the bamboo’s soft part. The soft section is the edible and nutritious part of the bamboo.
How long to boil fresh shoots?
Before preparing the dish, cut off the roots, clean the sprouts, cut across the fibres into strips of 3 to 5 mm wide and boil. Make sure you use the soft part of the bamboo shoots.
Boil the shoots for 20 minutes in an uncovered saucepan. This allows the bitter substances to partially evaporate. If the bitterness remains after cooking, boil the shoots for another 5 minutes in freshwater.
You can also cook in the microwave for 4 minutes in a shallow, uncovered dish filled with water. As a result, the vegetables should be crispy with a crust.
Bamboo shoot recipes
As these sprouts are a key ingredient in many Asian cuisine dishes, many of the recipes that include them are also Asian inspired.
- Braised bamboo shoots with dark soy sauce
- Stir-fry with pork, beef, or chicken
- Stir-fry with mushroom and long beans
- Laos sour bamboo stew
- Vietnamese chicken soup with shoots
If you are excited to start cooking using this nutritious plant, we suggest you try out this bamboo shoot recipe below!
Braised Bamboo Shoots Recipe
- 450 g bamboo shoots fresh or canned
- 3 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil for frying
- 2 thin slices ginger
- 2 tsp brown sugar preferably rock sugar, if available
- 2 tsp Shaoxing wine substitute it, if not available
- 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 0.5 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 glass water
- Chop the bamboo into 1.5-2 cm pieces.
- Heat up vegetable oil in a wok (deep skillet) over medium heat.
- Add ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Reduce heat and add sugar, making sure that it completely dissolves in the oil.
- Add chopped bamboo shoots and increase heat to high. Stir well and cook for a few minutes, until the bamboo pieces are browned around the edges.
- Add wine, both soy sauces and water. Mix it well, cover the pot with the lid and stew everything for around 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Remove the lid and increase the heat to evaporate excess water.
- When the bamboo shoots is completely cooked, add a couple of drops of oil and stir. Serve as a vegetarian main course or with a meat side dish.
We find that it is common for the above recipe to be cooked together with a portion of pork as protein. You can refer to C2食光 that has made a video on preparing that version of the recipe.
Where can I buy the shoots?
You can usually find them in the Asian markets or large brand supermarkets in general. Most of them would be the canned bamboo shoots, since the fresh ones are really hard to maintain for such a long time.
Nowadays, you can also find and order this healthy Asian ingredient from online stores.
How to pick out good bamboo shoots?
Make sure to pick the ones with big healthy roots and large yellowish rhizomes. Brown rhizomes are a bad sign!
If you are buying canned ones, just check the expiry date printed by the manufacturer on the back of the can.
Have you found out about mooli, another remarkable ingredient from Asia? Learn more about the benefits and how to make delicious fried daikon balls.