Bamboo shoots, or takenoko, are a commonly used vegetable in Japanese cuisine and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Simmered bamboo shoots, also known in Japanese as takenoko no nimono, is a general term for simply preparing takenoko by cooking it in dashi (stock) and seasonings such as soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. When dried bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, is added, this dish may also be referred to as takenoko no tosani.
Takenoko is usually in season in the spring, during the months of March through May. While not as readily available, fresh bamboo shoots might be found at Japanese grocery stores in the West, or at select farmers markets. More common, however, are canned bamboo shoots or pre-cooked and vacuum packed bamboo shoots. If pre-cooked vacuum packed bamboo shoots are available at your local Japanese grocery store, I highly recommend using this over canned bamboo shoots.
Pre-cooked vacuum packed bamboo shoots are boiled in water with rice or rice bran, which helps to remove bitterness from the fresh shoot. When the bamboo shoot is first cut in half, you will notice a gritty white residue in the folds of the shoot. This is residue from the rice bran. Gently rinse the bamboo shoot with water to remove the residue prior to cooking.
Cooked bamboo shoots have a crunchy texture. If you prefer a softer texture, I recommend adding an additional 1/2 cup of water to the recipe below, and simmering the bamboo shoots an additional 10 minutes prior to adding the seasonings.
- 1 cup sliced pre-cooked bamboo shoot (about half of one piece)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup dried bonito flakes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1/2 tablespoon sake
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Dash of salt (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dried bonito flakes
- Cut bamboo shoot in half and rinse in cold water to remove any white gritty residue.
- Slice the bamboo into medium sized pieces.
- In a medium pot, add water and 1/2 cup of dried bonito flakes to make the dashi, or bonito stock, which will be used to simmer the bamboo shoots. Bring the mixture to boil on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the bonito flakes to sink to the bottom, about 5 more minutes. Line a mesh sieve with a paper towel. Holding the sieve over a bowl, strain the dashi, removing all of the bonito flakes. Pour the clear dashi back into the pot.
- Add the sliced bamboo shoots to the dashi and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until the simmering liquid is gone. Remove from heat and serve warm.
- Add 1 tablespoon dried bonito flakes to the cooked bamboo shoots, toss and serve while warm.
- Substitute 1 teaspoon dried katsuo dashi (bonito stock) per 2 cups of water if you will not be making the dashi from scratch.