Soop Naw Mai
I’ve loved bamboo shoots since my childhood as they are often found in cuisines I adore such as Thai and Shanghaiese. In Vancouver, really fresh bamboo shoots are rare and the canned variety is commonly used in restaurants. In such case, intensely flavoured sauces are necessary to cover up the musty and sour smell created during the canning process.
One New Years Eve, Tim introduced me to a Taiwanese bamboo shoot salad where blanched, fresh bamboo shoots were simply dressed with light mayo. Have you ever had a food revelation where your perception of a certain food is turned upside-down at a distinct moment? For the first time, I tasted how delicately fruity and sweet fresh bamboo shoots are. So when Tim asked me what I wanted as a souvenir from Taiwan, I jokingly answered, “some fresh bamboo shoots”. Imagine my surprise when he presented two juicy and green bamboo shoots he smuggled in for me!
I decided to showcase these precious (illegal) imports by turning them into two salads. The first is a Thai style salad on a bed of crispy jicama and bean sprouts. The spicy cilantro and mint dressing is very versatile and can be used as a dip or over steamed fish or chicken. Toasted rice powder is the essential element that lends a unique, nutty aroma without the cloying heaviness sesame oil can bring. You could purchase toasted rice powder but it would be silly to considering how little time and effort it takes to make it. Plus, it gives you bragging rights when you reveal to your friends that you made that “je ne sais quoi” from scratch.
Keep posted for a Japanese twist on the bamboo shoot salad featuring buckwheat soba crisps and wasabi mayo.
How to prepare fresh bamboo shoots according to Tim’s Grandma:
Boil the bamboo shoots in a large pot of water over medium heat for fifteen minutes. Turn the heat off, cover, and leave it alone for at least one hour. This process removes bitterness. Bamboo shoots are more bitter towards the tip.
Soop Naw Mai
1 cooked bamboo shoot, sliced into thin strips
1/2 small jicama, peeled, sliced into thin strips
2 handfuls of bean sprouts, root and sprout ends removed
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped finely
2 bunches of fresh mint, chopped finely
2 scallions, chopped
1-2 Thai chili, de-seeded, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbs toasted rice powder (made from glutenous rice)
2 tbs flavorless oil. I used grapeseed.
1 tsp brown sugar
Toasted Rice Powder
In a dry pan, toast glutenous rice over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and cool completely. Grind it into powder with a pestle and mortar.
OR use a spice/ coffee grinder, pour the powder back into the mortar, and pretend you did all the work by hand.
Combine all the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust to achieve the right balance of tanginess, spiciness, and saltiness.