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Takenoko are bamboo shoots. We're in takenoko season right now. You take a special hoe and walk around in a bamboo forest until you step on the tip of the takenoko. The best and most tender takenoko are the ones that are barely visible. As they grow larger, they become tougher. You have to then dig around the takenoko, find where it attaches to the root network and chop it at the right angle to get it to come off easily. Then you shuck them. After shucking, a very important step is the aku nuki. Many vegetables, particularly takenoko have a very bitter taste that comes from impurities (alkaline solution and dissolved elements) which is called aku. Aku nuki (removing the aku) is typically done stewing the takenoko with komenuka (rice husk powder) and Japanese red chili peppers. The best takenoko is tender takenoko picked and immediately stewed, left over night in the water, then prepared with rice, stew or some other typical Japanese dish in the morning. Yum.

28 Comments

Well, I had it for dinner last night and it's very delicious. If you have some more takenoko you cannot eat, send them over...

Did you have my takenoko?

nah, the best takenoko are those chocolate ones made by Glico.

I remember before I was married, going to pick the young susutake with my wife's family on the side of a mountain where they owned some land. I don't know if it was beginner's luck, but I picked about 120 by myself, more than anyone else.
The really cool thing for me was that they showed me another plant called itadori, that was a tall stock with spade-shaped leaves. They throw away the leaves and pickle the stalks, but I was shocked to find out that although the stocks are hollow, it tastes exactly like rhubarb. (I guess the same oxalic acid as rhubarb leaves makes the leaves inedible?)
Since the only place I've ever seen rhubarb in Japan is 1000yen jars of jam in Meidi-ya, I picked an armful and baked a decent strawberry-rhubarb pie out of it. You find the weirdest things in the weirdest places...
Any Japanese plant biologists out there know what plant I'm talking about, and if it's related to rhubarb? I've never found any info...

how dare you hack into the root network!

Cam C. - You made a Strawberry rhubarb pie out of an unidentified rhubard substitute? That's pretty cool and resourceful. Since we're calling in the Japanese biologists, I'd like to pose a question too.

As a teenager, I had a Japanese friend who refused to eat takenoko for fear that it would give him acne. I never pressed him on the issue, but is there anything to this fear?

Mike B. I've heard that too... I do know that some people get a rash from eating them, so maybe that's what he was referring to.

As for being resourceful, living in Japan teaches you to learn some new culinary tricks... I've made pumpkin pie in a fish grill successfully a few times, grown beets on borrowed land for real Ukranian-style borscht soup, and figured out that that ground tuna for negitoro makes a great thing to spread on toast with mustard and onions.

By the way, after posting, I actually went out on the web and found out what that stuff is... in English, itadori is "Japanese knotweed", and it is related to rhubarb, as I though. Apparently the stuff is a real pest in Britain, where it was introduced from Asia quite a long time ago.

I encourage anybody near the mountains in Japan to go and look for the stuff... look up some pictures on the web and you should have no problem finding it. Now is the time; wait too long and it will get too big and woody to eat.

庭先にタケノコが有るとは、羨ましい限りです :-)~

竹の種類に因ってはエグいのも有るかもしれませんが、取りたての若い、柔らかいブツでしたら山葵醤油と生タケノコの刺身に挑戦しては如何?
「タケノコの刺身」とググッて見ましたら結構人気があるみたいです (^^)

http://www.joyful.gr.jp/~hirac/satoyama/tanken6/part2.htm

Yikes. Wouldn't that be kind of like trying to eat grass from my front lawn with ketchup and mustard? Yet, as long as shoyu and wasabi are allowed, eating takenoko raw wouldn't be too bad, would it?

Not your takenoko, Joi, but I'm curious how yours compares to the one I had.

Mike B. dixit


Yikes. Wouldn't that be kind of like trying to eat grass from my front lawn with ketchup and mustard?

How dare you compare the hallowed takenoko to some wimpish and mundane grass? Naaah.
The tender takenoko that is edible raw is a substantive, wholesome, fragrant and sweet creature whose elusiveness and vulnerability embodies the impermanence of this fleeting world ;-)

http://www.mie1.1st.ne.jp/~nao/takenoko/resipi/namasasimi.html

Oh, I see. Thanks for the link. I didn't know you could really eat any type raw.

You're right... that actually looks pretty good -- much better than lawn grass. It looks "elusive and vulnerable" the way a rare truffle might.

My uncle, an adventurous gourmet, has eaten raw takenoko. He waited at night in a bamboo grove with wasabi, shoyu, and a hoe and knife and chopped off the tips just as they came up. (Bamboo grows very fast, and apparently at night.) Once they're poking above the ground, they become too tough to eat raw, he says.

The Japanese are among the most creative people at finding ways to eat things. I think the reason that kudzu is a problem in the US but not in Japan is that the Japanese eat kudzu. My proposal to the UN is that if there is a pest anywhere in the world, they should figure out a way to market it as a delicacy to the Japanese.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm takenono.

My proposal to the UN is that if there is a pest anywhere in the world, they should figure out a way to market it as a delicacy to the Japanese.

Speaking of culinary adventurousness, a Chinese gentleman once told me that if something walks, flies, swims or crawls, the Chinese will eat it.

As for the Japanese, even if something tastes weird and doesn't really look like food — e.g. sprouting tree leaves, roots, algae, herbs, ferns — if they can ascribe some obscure seasonal reference to it, the Japanese will eat it.
Gaijin-compatible manifestations of that Japanese atavism include e.g. sakura-mochi and momiji-mochi (momiji=autumnal red leaves)
Yum.

Hmm. More typographical oddity. Are parentheses or circumflexes triggering unpredictable font size changes or what ?

I thought the Chinese saying was that they eat anything "with its back to the sky"...

I've always tried to eat everything when I travel... I've had donkey (tasted like corned beef) and frog in China, and horse sashimi in Japan.

MostlyVowels: a Chinese gentleman once told me that if something walks, flies, swims or crawls, the Chinese will eat it.

Yeah, all those things with legs and wings, except for chairs and airplanes :)

But unlike the Japanese, the Chinese don't eat raw food. They use fire in any cooking. The Japanese have fetishism onto freshness of food and are willing to pay big chunk of money on it, therefore takenoko no sashimi is one of gourmet foods of seasons.

That's the greeat thing about good Japanese cuisine -- even if you don't like the taste of a certain dish, at least it's always very fresh. Most cuisines don't offer that kind of "freshness guarantee".

I live in the midwest USA and have 5 kinds of bamboo growing in my garden here. We are just entering spring (it is much colder here) and it will be another month before the bamboo shoots really take off. Every year I have to use my hoe and pick-axe to dig out errant new shoots and keep the bamboo in check, from overrunning the entire garden. I keep vowing to try eating the tenderest part of the new shoots -- maybe I will try them this year.

ah ha...the rye grass will help acidify the soil where you will plant tomatoes next year.

Anita, bamboo shoots that are already visible will likely be too bitter and astringent. Once the shoot's tip is exposed to light, a rapid photochemical reaction takes place, making the whole shoot unedible. Similarly, once severed from the underground rootstocks, the uncooked shoots' chemical balance will change within a few hours under the action of enzymes, and they will gain an unpalatable taste.
Shoots that are edible raw are typically harvested when they are still 3 to 7 inches underground, unexposed to sunlight. As they would still be invisible, finding them is a challenge: one must scan the ground's surface for the subtle cracks a swelling and rapidly growing underground young shoot will cause. Think e.g. of the faint cracks appearing on a chocolate cake's crust when the cake's volume expands in the oven...

KL: Re Chinese not eating any raw meat: not quite true. There is yee sang, little slivers of raw fish mixed with a bunch of other auspicious foods, for Chinese (Lunar) New Year.

How nice to learn about the eateyology of bamboo shoots! I am curious about the "fermenting" of them, the different stages, etc. Although their fragrance is hardly approaching durian, I made quite a hit with my wife and the rest of the clientele in a restaurant, when I specifically ordered bamboo shoots. Their fragrance, like a farm or farm animals, nearly, totally filled the restaurant. Fortunately, we're still married!

- i just heard of this wonderfull "take-no-ko" and a new name ne-magari-dake , thats the kind of bambugrass(Sasa kurilensis) growing here in the north of Belgium Europe.
I see only very thiny nuts coming up, and i was waiting for the shoots. Its still freesing cold here. Who has a good healty recipe for this .
thanks ,
Robert

um this is kind of awkward but did takenoko originate in china or japan? I know takenoko is a japanese word and all but just wanted to clarify, seeing as im doing an essay on takenoko for school (dont ask my teacher is kind of...weird when it comes to essays)

....no one is here anymore are they? I just checked the dates, but how come no one has posted since march???

Interesting, does it refer only to bamboo forests in China/Japan, or American backyard grown bamboo is too suitable for cooking?

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