In the Far East, edible bamboo shoots are
sold fresh in the market. The young shoots are stripped of their brown
outer skins and the insides are then eaten. Although fresh bamboo shoots
can occasionally be found in oriental stores, the most readily available
variety is sold in cans. The flavor is undoubtedly spoiled. Fresh bamboo
shoots have a mild but distinct taste, faintly reminiscent of
artichokes, while canned ones really taste of nothing at all. However,
the texture, which, in Chinese cuisines particularly, is as important as
the flavor, is not so impaired, and bamboo shoots have a pleasantly
Preparing and Cooking : Peel away the
outer skin and then cook in boiling water for about half an hour. They
should feel firm, but not "rock" hard. Once cooked, slice thinly and
serve by themselves as a side dish, with garlic butter or a sauce, or
add to stir-fries, spring rolls or any oriental dish where you need a
contrast of textures. Since canned bamboo shoots have been preserved in
brine, always rinse well before using.
Fresh palm hearts are the buds of cabbage
palm trees and are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
They are available canned from oriental stores, but are most prized when
fresh. These should be blanched before being cooked to eliminate any
bitterness. They can be braised or sauteed and then served hot with a
Hollandaise sauce, or cold with a simple vinaigrette.
Water chestnut is the common name for a
number of aquatic herbs and their nut-like fruit, the best known and most
popular variety being the Chinese water chestnut, sometimes known as the
Chinese sedge. In China they are grown in exactly the same way as rice,
the plants needing the same conditions of high temperatures, shallow
water and good soil. In spring, the corms are planted in paddy fields
which are then flooded to a depth of some 10 cm. These are drained in
autumn, and the corms are harvested and stored over the winter. Water
chestnuts are much used in Chinese cooking and have a sweet crunchy
flavor with nutty overtones. They are edible cooked or raw and are
excellent in all sorts of Chinese dishes.