Monday, August 18, 2008

Bamboo Shoots (Betong or Mu Tong)

This is a picture from Tess's Japanese Kitchen ( How much life has changed from the time we had to collect our own bamboo shoots from the jungle to supermarket ease for the corporate female! This baby bamboo is one of the thousands of ways to cook the indomitable bamboo in Chinese cuisine.

I wish this book "Bamboo Shoot after the rain: Contemporary Stories ..."is available in the local bookstores. So often I come across or stumble on really good books in the Internet and enjoy reading whatever is available on the net.

This reminds me of my "stumbling type of reading" when I was a child in the village. I would come across scraps of Chinese newspapers used for wrapping things or for the toilet. And I would carefully read them before they were "recycled". This was the way I picked up good Chinese vocabulary. I did not learn to read English until I went to school. And I do not remember having special reading books specially bought from the shops because there were no bookshops then.

Today,I would still catch myself picking up a scrap piece of Chinese newspaper and then discover that it was good for reading. Words are such great comfort to us any time of the day. I love these kinds of accidental finds.

We must make time for ourselves to be with words.

This "stumbling" today brought me to write about one of my family's loved foods - the bamboo shoot.

These photos are recent. I went in search of bamboo shoots with friends on their land before they started to prepare their land for oil palm growing. Sadly.the bamboo groves we found will have to go soon. These bamboo shoots are fresh, tasty and extremely sweet. Top of the crop really especially when you have good friends around to prepare it from scratch. A lot of skill is needed during the preparation.

Traditional Chinese: 竹筍
Simplified Chinese: 竹笋
Transliterations Mandarin - Hanyu Pinyin: zhú sǔn

Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo species Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, both fresh and canned versions.
(Source : Wikipedia)

Pickled bamboo, used as a condiment, may also be made from the pith of the young shoots.

The bamboo shoot continues to be one of the most sustaining vegetable of the Foochow community today. About a hundred years ago when the Foochow pioneers first arrived in Sibu, the bamboo shoot was one of their main stays . There were plenty of bamboos around and bamboo shoots grew faster than any other plant. A young boy could be asked to collect some bamboo shoots from the jungle and he could bring back a basket ful enough for the family and enough for pickling in fact.

My mother and her siblings used to collect bamboo shots just before the Japanese occupation and told us lots of stories about their "jungle trekking". She told us that if they worked hard enough there would not be any shortage of food at all. Only the lazy ones could not get enough food. Apart from bringing home bamboo shoots they would also bring back meeding and paku for the family. The very hardworking Foochows even planted more bamboo so that they could harvest more bamboo shoots in the future. Hence to this day, Sg. Maaw would still have many bamboo groves if you care to examine the land closely.

Bamboo shoots can be cooked with any meat in stir fry. Tiny slices of this root enhances a good soup . They can be pickled and stored for future use. And I love having it in my spring rolls too.

You can be so creative with this "free gift" from nature. It will be a pity if they disappear from the earth.

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