Embracing Spring with Bamboo Shoots
With the gentle embrace of spring, braised bamboo shoots become a culinary symbol of the season’s arrival in grocery stores and bustling markets across China. Recollecting my years in China, I cherish the memories of observing these seasonal transitions, with each time of year offering its unique display at the local markets.
For the Northerners, or the bei fang ren (北方人), spring bamboo is a go-to ingredient for delightful soups, stir-fries, or even when paired with succulent pork. But for us, the proud Shanghainese, the cherished “red-cooked” or hong shao (红烧) technique resonates deeply.
A Culinary Heritage: The Braised Bamboo Tale
Diving deep into Shanghai’s rich culinary history, the Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots or yóu mèn sun (油焖笋) stands out. This dish, echoing traditional flavors and possibly a favorite of our grandparents, retains its popularity. I can’t emphasize enough the sheer joy it brings! It’s a symphony of taste, uniting vegetarians, vegans, and meat-lovers alike.
While I relish a myriad of dishes, if faced with a choice, my heart inclines toward the braised spring bamboo shoots. Yes, even over a luscious pork belly! It’s not hyperbole to say that this vegetarian dish packs a punch that won’t leave you wanting.
Selecting the Right Bamboo Shoots
You can venture into making Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots using either spring or winter bamboo shoots. Both fresh and frozen variants work wonders. Finding fresh bamboo shoots, be it spring or winter, is indeed a treat and calls for immediate culinary action. Yet, if you’re reaching for the frozen ones, they’re a commendable substitute. However, it’s vital to steer clear of canned versions as their excessive moisture doesn’t bode well for this preparation.
- 1 pound bamboo shoots (450g, either fresh or frozen; ensure the tougher outer layers are peeled away)
- A neutral oil (like vegetable or canola oil suits best)
- 2 slender ginger slices
- 2 teaspoons sugar or rock sugar (the latter is ideal if you have it)
- 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
- 1½ tablespoons regular soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
- 1 cup water
Steps to Savor
- A handy tip: If you’re using fresh winter bamboo shoots, it’s wise to blanch them post-cutting. This variant also requires extended simmering.
- Initiate by heating 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a moderate flame. Ginger goes in next, letting its aroma infuse the oil for roughly 30 seconds. Reduce the flame, introducing rock sugar, allowing it to melt seamlessly into the mix. In comes the bamboo, with the heat turned up, ensuring a thorough mingling. Continue until you notice the bamboo edges taking on a light brown hue.
- It’s time for the Shaoxing wine, both soy sauces, and water. Blend them well. Lid on, let it simmer on medium for about 10 minutes. After this, remove the cover, elevate the heat to evaporate any excess liquid, and finish with a drizzle of oil to grant that tempting shine!
A Nostalgic Culinary Journey
The Braised Spring Bamboo Shoots aren’t just a dish; they’re an emotion, a journey through time and tradition. As spring graces us, dive into this preparation and let the fusion of flavors narrate a tale of Shanghai’s culinary heritage, reminding us of the simple yet profound joys of life.