One of the wonderful surprises my husband brought home from his trip to Atlanta was a giant fresh bamboo shoot. This was the largest fresh bamboo shoot I’ve ever seen, easily 4″ across at the base, and completely whole. Usually if you can find fresh bamboo shoots they are sold already peeled. This was a wonderful skill to practice since we are planting bamboo this year and hope to be harvesting our own fresh bamboo shoots soon.
Preparing a whole fresh bamboo shoot is similar to a artichoke- there’s a lot of hard fibrous layers to peel away. The yummy bit’s hidden on the inside. The fibrous layers peel away easily to expose the soft mild-flavored shoot inside. Spring is the season for bamboo shoots! Go to your Asian grocer and ask if they have any.
I decided to make a Vietnamese-style stir-fry with the spicy marinated tofu he also bought from the Vietnamese market. Stir-fry dishes are excellent for using up tons of fresh vegetables when I go a bit overboard at the farmer’s market, and we don’t eat tofu very often so this was a big treat. I also seized the chance to use the lemongrass growing in my herb garden. This is my first lemongrass harvest! The lemongrass is bouncing back nicely from the late freeze, I finally feel like I can start harvesting a few stalks here and there.
Since marinated tofu isn’t easy to find outside of Vietnamese neighborhoods, I’ve included a spicy lemongrass marinade recipe I’ve used many times from Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook. You can use this delicious marinade on plain tofu or chicken.
Fresh Bamboo Shoot-Lemongrass Stirfry
2 lb extra-firm tofu, pressed overnight on towels to get ride of any extra water (or use chicken breasts or thighs)
3 or 4 stalks fresh lemongrass, soft parts only chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 fresh red chiles, or 1/2 tsp chile flakes
2 tbl sunflower, coconut or peanut oil
2 tsp coconut sugar ( you can substitute palm sugar or honey)
Slice the dry tofu into thick matchsticks and dry again on towels. Put the marinade ingredients in a blender and pulse, adding just enough water to make a thick paste. Put the tofu in a non-reactive bowl, add the marinade, and stir until all of the pieces are coated in marinade. Cover tightly and let marinate for at least 2 hours, or do this in the morning and let it marinate all day while you’re at work.
1 fresh bamboo shoot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 lb snow peas, strings pulled if necessary
2 large spring onions or shallots, sliced
3-4 tbl fish sauce
1 tbl coconut sugar
3 stalks lemongrass, soft parts only minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
Sunflower, peanut or coconut oil
Heat a non-stick wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp of oil, swirl around. Add the bamboo shoot, tossing until lightly browned. Add 1/4 c of water to the wok and cover. Let the bamboo shoot steam, tossing the pan occasionally, until you can hear it sizzling again in the oil, showing that all of the water has evaporated. Set the bamboo shoots aside in another bowl.
Add another tbs or so of oil. Stir-fry the cabbage, snow peas, and shallots. Add to the bowl with the bamboo shoots. Finally add the tofu to the wok, stir-frying until the liquid has evaporated, the tofu is beginning to brown around the edges, and you can really smell the spices. Then make a hole in the center of the wok. Add another tbs of oil if there is none at the bottom of the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass to that little puddle of hot oil. Let them sizzle together for a few seconds until they start to turn really golden and fragrant. Then add the vegetables back to the wok, toss the whole mixture well, and pour 3 tbl of fish sauce and the sugar over the mixture. Toss again until it all sizzles. Taste for balance, add fish sauce or sugar if necessary.
Serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice and plenty of fresh limes to squeeze over.