In addition to sakura, springtime is the season for fresh bamboo shoots, or takenoko, in Kyoto. Asahori, or ‘dug up early this morning’ is common to see on signs and labels in the stores. Even though takenoko is very fresh, it still must be precooked to remove the harsh astringency from the young and tender shoot.
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki) 竹の子のアクぬき
The western foothills of Kyoto produce several variety of bamboo shoots that are much sought after for various culinary delights.
I have had fresh bamboo shoots a few times this year but hadn’t made it myself yet. This afternoon I bought two small and tender looking shoots.
Removing the bitter, acrid taste is easily accomplished with boiling for about 90 minutes. This is called akunuki. The trick is to boil it with nuka, or rice bran. This is the same nuka that is used to make nukazuke pickles (of which I am a devotee of).
Asahori Takenoko (Morning Dug Bamboo Shoots)
The Takenoko ‘Precook’ Preparation Recipe
One kg of nuka (rice bran powder) for every kg of takenoko. (In Japan rice bran can usually be obtained free from any rice shop. Also, not every species of bamboo shoot is edible.) See photos below for complete process.
- Wash loose dirt from takenoko.
- Peel away several of the thickest, outer sheaths
- Cut tip off and make several slices a few mm deep vertically into the sheet covering.
- Add takenoko and nuka to large pot of water. You can throw in several dried chilies too. (I highly doubt that this accomplishes anything.)
- Bring to a rolling boil then reduce heat and boil for 90 minutes.
- Remove heat and allow to sit for about 2 hours.
- After cooking, remove sheaths carefully, one by one.
If you are not going to cook immediately, bamboo shoots will keep in the refrigerator for week or so in water. Change water everyday. (This will also help to leach out additional bitterness.)
I made takenoko gohan (rice with bamboo shoot) with these, the KyotoFoodie article is here.
Nuka (Rice Bran)
Ready to Boil: Takenoko Tips Trimmed and Sheaths Split
Takenoko in Water with Chilies
Starting to Boil
Finished: Boiled Takenoko
Removed from Pot
Peeling Away Sheath Covering
Takenoko Ready for Cooking
Note: I sliced these horizontal, like a gaijin. More Japanese would be to slice vertically, as it will be more beautiful.