Here in New England, after a cold snowy winter, we eagerly await the first sure signs that Spring has arrived. Purple crocuses give way to bright yellow daffodils, the forsythia begins to bloom, and we know that warmer days are surely right around the corner. In the markets, ramps and asparagus, spring peas and fiddlehead ferns give us the same reassurance that the snows of winter are far behind us.
In Zhejiang Province in Eastern China, tender bamboo shoots are the local harbinger of Spring, and they find their way into numerous local dishes. The following recipe is a common way to showcase this local treat. Simply braised and slightly sweet, as is the eastern Chinese proclivity, this dish makes a quick and flavorful side dish.
1 lb. fresh bamboo shoots
3 scallions, both white and green part, cut into 2” pieces.
1” piece of ginger, peeled, sliced into thin slices and julienned
3 Tbls. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsps. sugar
2 Tbls light soy sauce
1 Tbls dark soy sauce
2 Tbls. peanut oil
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
1 Tbls. Sesame oil
Cut off the tough base of the bamboo shoots and discard any tough outer leaves. Slice the bamboo shoots and cut into 2’ pieces.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the bamboo shoots, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. This step removes cyanogens that can make the bamboo shoots bitter. Taste them to make sure they are no longer bitter, then drain.
In a small bowl, mix the rice wine or sherry, sugar and the two soy sauces.
Heat a wok over high heat. Swirl in the peanut oil. Add the ginger, scallions, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the bamboo shoots, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the seasoning mixture, and let simmer about slowly until most of the liquid is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove to a platter, drizzle with sesame oil and serve.
written by Jim Becker, Chinatown guide