How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)

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)
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

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)
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Ready to Boil: Takenoko Tips Trimmed and Sheaths Split
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Takenoko in Water with Chilies
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Nuka Added
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Starting to Boil
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Boiling Takenoko
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Boiling Takenoko
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Finished: Boiled Takenoko
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Removed from Pot
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Peeling Away Sheath Covering
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Cleaned Takenoko
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき

Takenoko Ready for Cooking
How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)  竹の子のアクぬき
Note: I sliced these horizontal, like a gaijin. More Japanese would be to slice vertically, as it will be more beautiful.

10 Responses to “How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Akunuki)”

  1. robert says:

    Thanks for this —- I was given an enormous unsold shoot on leaving the Osaka historical farmhouses museum, and was at a total loss.
    On mentioning this to my Japanese hosts, I was bought some divine prepared takenoko, pointed to your site, & now have to aspire to transform my raw material into something similar. Yikes.

  2. Risa says:

    Thank you for this lesson! I am so jealous! Living in the U.S., I never come across fresh takenoko!

  3. Saitoko says:

    This is such an inspiring post! I was wondering, though, if you’d be able to help me with something…In pre-packaged takenoko I’ve bought from Japanese markets back when I lived in the States, I’d find a gritty white substance sometimes jammed between some of the inner fibers of the shoot. I just washed it away and it ended up being ok that time, but since then, I’ve kind of shied away from buying it fresh, packaged or otherwise. What on earth was that stuff?? >_<
    The takenoko gohan cooked in donabe sounds like it could be a fun challenge for the GW break! We might go ahead and try it! :) Thanks again!

  4. Saitoko – as I understand it, the gritty white stuff you find in the prepared shoots (often vacuum packed) is the residue from the rice bran that the shoots are cooked with.
    I am preparing some shoots right now – they are coming to the boil. This post has giving me some good pointers. Mind you rice bran is difficult to get in Los Angeles, so I am substituting with water I washed rice in which is supposed to be as good.

  5. P.S. I had these incredible grilled bamboo shoots at this grilled vegetable restaurant in Kyoto a couple months ago. So delicious, I can’t get them out of my mind.

  6. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the advice on the preparation of this particular item. I have regular seasonal access to bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, Shimeji and king oyster mushrooms and a host of others even Karhi leaves, all fresh, thanks to the large Korean population in Ellicott city near my home. And I regularly have @ least 10 different seaweed varieties stocked along with my beloved Keem, which I roast in the oven to perfection and eat with utter abandon. I love all things Nipponese with one exception (being referred to as a “gaijin”) which I find somewhat less than dignified, domo arigato gozaimasu, and be well.

  7. jaden says:

    gosh, I haven’t been here on your blog for a while….I LOVE IT! thanks so much for all this information – including your blog as a resource when we’re editing for the next printing of the book.

  8. Anita says:

    I finally broke down and bought a fresh bamboo shoot yesterday (after first having found out what it was-being a gaijin and never having seen one before!) without a clue as to how to deal with it. After following your directions (instead of nuka I used rice rinse water-suggestion from a Japanese friend) it came out perfectly! When i cleaned it and cut it aI almost ate the whole thing by myself! Great, explicit directions-I’d still be staring at it wondering how to tackle the darned thing. Thanks!

  9. Chris Loew says:

    Hi,
    Your info was useful. I got a takenoko from my mother in law and couldn’t figure out if I needed to boil it. But from looking at your pics I can guess that she already did it.

    By the way, I ate the tips of the leaves like artichoke and they weren’t half bad.

    We are putting the rest into subuta (sweet & sour pork).

    Thanks,
    Chris

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