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Bamboo Shoots: An Update

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Vegetables and Vegetarian Foods

Spring Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(1) pages: 31 to 32

The first article about these foods, common for pandas and people was written in 2003 by Irving Beilin Chang in Volume 10(4) on pages 9, 10, and 12. It had four recipes and is on this magazine’s website. A dozen years later, in Volume 22(1) an article titled: Vegetables: Unusual in the western World.

The newer article did discuss a dozen Chinese vegetables, but many readers wrote to ask why bamboo shoots were not included. Several also asked why we have not written more about these reed-like vegetables used in a variety of ways in many Chinese dishes. Responding to those queries, this article is about these vegetables some call ‘universal providers.’

Bamboo shoots are popular and used often because they can be sauteed, steamed, stuffed, boiled, or braised and used in ever so many other ways. They are used in ever so many dishes by those who eat with chopsticks. They are also used to making paper, build houses, repair residences, and make baskets, furniture, fencing, clothing, weapons, and many other things.

Cooks and consumers need to know that rarely, if ever, are bamboo shoots eaten uncooked. If you wonder why not, one reason is that some species include toxins such as hydocyanic acid, though not in large amounts. Because of that they are always boiled before consuming them. Companies that sell them almost always cook them before they do. There are hundreds of species, some with more toxin than others. That is why they are rarely sold uncooked.

Some varieties of these shoots actually shoot up four feet in one day, particularly if they are spring shoots. Many known winter shoots are probably the best among them; and you can recognize them as they have spaces inside a whole shoot, and they are the tastiest of any of them.

Some call bamboo shoots the ‘king of the vegetable family.’ They are cai wong or tian zhu in Chinese, all grow more quickly in spring than in winter. The winter ones look as is someone cut out some of their insides, they are not solid throughout.

Most bamboo shoots are perennials. They have solid outer husks that need to be removed and discarded. When too old, they are woody and not worth eating. Most are members of Bambusa beecheyana or phyllostachys, and they grow pointy and are as tall as some trees. Many are flesh-colored, all are loved for their texture and their taste.

TCM practitioners tell us their flavor is sweet, neither warm nor cool, and they impact the lungs and phlegm and are a valuable aid for respiratory problems such as coughs and a rough throat. They suggest simmering them with sugar and also eating them that way if unable to ditch a common cold. They also suggest cooking them with garlic and fermented soy beans. If one has a chronic prolapse of the anus, one TCM doctor told us to eat pickled bamboo shoots cooked with chicken and salt every day.

Next are a few recipes when wanting to prepare some. There are many others in this magazine listed in the index on its website. Check them out in the vegetable listings and also look at others in meat, poultry, and fish dishes. While they can be eaten alone, and prepared in dessert dishes, most are in the vegetable section.

Bamboo Shoots, Stir-Fried

1 pound bamboo shoots, peeled if needed, and blanched
½ cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons canned evaporated milk
3 Tablespoons Shao Xing wine
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons rendered chicken fat
1 Tablespoon back vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil


1. Mix the chicken stock with evaporated milk, wine, ground pepper, and cornstarch.
2. Heat a wok or pot and add the chicken fat and the bamboo shoots and braise them for three or four minutes, then add the above mixture and stir-fry it for two minutes before adding the wine, seasonings and cornstarch.
3. Stir-fry one minute more, then serve.

Winter Bamboo Shoots and Fermented Flour

1 pound canned winter bamboo shoots, drained and thinly sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
½ cup pea vines, cut into one-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons fermented flour paste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ cup chicken stock


1. Heat wok or fry pan, add bamboo shoots and oil, and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Add the pea vine pieces, fermented flour paste, sugar, and salt, and continue to stir-fry for two more minutes. Before adding the sesame oil and stock boiling it until thickened, but not more than two minutes; then serve in a pre-heated dish.

Stuffed Chicken Wings

10 one-bone chicken wings, their meat and skin pushed to one end making them look like lollypops
2 Tablespoons dry shrimp, cooked in water or stock for twenty minutes, then drained their liquid discarded
1 shiitake mushrooms boiled in half cup water, then discard their stems and mince their caps
1 Chinese sausage cooked with the mushrooms, then minced
½ cup canned winter bamboo shoots, drained and minced
1 cup sweet rice cooked until soft
2 Tablespoons tin soy sauce
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, separated
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce


1. Prepare all ingredients as directed, ad cut a pocket in each chicken wing.
2. Mix minced shrimp, mushrooms, sausage, bamboo shoots, and rice with half the cornstarch and the hot sauce.
3. Dust the wings with the rest of the cornstarch, stuff each wing and squeeze it closed.
4. Heat the oil and fry half of the wings for two or three minutes, then put them in a steamer basket and fry the rest of them for the same amount of time.
5. Put the wings over boiling water and steam then for twelve minutes, put them in a serving bowl, then serve them.

Duck Lotus Roots, and Bamboo Shoots

1 duck breast cut into matchstick-size pieces
1 section lotus root, peeled and cut into match-stick size pieces
1 Tablespoon each: rice wine, chicken stock, and white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon each salt and granulated sugar


1. Mix dusk pieces with all the other ingredients and steam over boiling water for twenty-five minutes.
2. Stir well, and serve.

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