Monday, February 14, 2011

Simmered Bamboo shoot with Wakame 若竹煮もどき

Newly harvested bamboo shoots are a sign of spring in Japan (not in Hokkaido, though, it is too cold for big bamboo to grow). When bamboo is cooked with fresh wakame sea weed, it is called "Wakatake-ni" 若竹煮 and is considered the ultimate combination of two seasonal food items in spring. My dish is not quite authentic; first of all, I made this from a vacuum packed boiled bamboo shoot and second, the wakame I used is not fresh or even salt preserved but dried. "Otsumami yokocho" volume 1 on page 44 has a similar but more simplified version of this dish. In the U.S., both bamboo shoot and fresh wakame are "out of season" so this is the best I can do for this dish.

The boiled bamboo shoot I bought at a near-by Japanese grocery store had "Himekawa" 姫皮 attached (left image). Himekawa is the very soft top inner part of bamboo shoot. I removed this first and cut it into strips. I was initially thinking of using this for a different dish such as a Japanese "ae-mono" salad but I got lazy and decided to use it in this dish as well. I added "himekawa" to the pot just before serving to warm it up and season. You need not really cook this part further.

I cut off the lower 1/3 (I intended to use the lower part for other dish) and cut the top portion in quarters lengthwise. Then I further cut it into small wedges. You may find chalky white stuff between the segments of bamboo shoot. This is an amino acid (tyrosine) congealed. Tyrosine is not water soluble and is contained abundantly in the bamboo shoot itself.  As such, it is not harmful and OK to eat but, for a better presentation, you may want to wash off most of the visible ones.

I put dashi (1 cup), mirin (1 tbs), sake (1 tbs) and soy sauce (2 tbs) in a small pan on medium flame. If you want to keep the light color of the bamboo shoot, use a light colored soy sauce or "usukuchi shuyu". When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer. I cook it for about 20-30 minutes or until the cooking liquid is reduced in half. Just 1 minute before serving, I add "himekawa" and hydrated wakame to warm them up but not really "cook" them. To serve, I first place the wakame (left, back in the above picture) and "himekawa" (right, back) in a sallow bowl. I took out the cooked bamboo shoot in another bowl and added bonito flakes and mixed to coat (optional) and served them next to the wakame and himekawa as seen above.

For dried wakame and vacuum packed bamboo shoot, this was not bad. We had this with cold sake as a second dish after we had the avocado and tunas sashimi cubes, a very nice contrast.


Jon said...

For a minute I was afraid that you were ahead of us, seasonally, and had managed to grow new bamboo in your garden. I'm still jealous about myoga. Here, fukinoto are just coming in, so Spring isn't far away.
Thanks for the explanation of tyrosine also; I always wondered about that.

Uncle N said...

Hope you have recovered from the NY trip. Looking forward to your new adventures in eating out in Tokyo to come.

I have not seen "fukinoto" around here. We may have to plant "fuki" someday.