with Elizabeth Andoh

Spring has come, the cher­ry blossoms have vanished and yet another school and business year has begun in Japan.

One of the tastiest spring­time delicacies is fresh bamboo shoots—really very different from the canned ones. They’re not cheap, but do treat yourself to the real thing while the season lasts.

TAKENOKO (bamboo shoots)


  • 2-3 small or 1 medium fresh bamboo shoot
  • 7-8 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup iri-nuka
  • 2 togarashi


1. Carefully peel a few outer leaves of the bamboo shoot and rinse away any loose dirt that may still be clinging to them.

2. Trim the broad bottom straight across, and the pointed top slightly on the diagonal (see illustration). Slash, but do not cut thru, each shoot down its length.

Trim and slash instructions

3. Add the iri-nuka and togarashi (broken in half; don’t discard the seeds) to the cold water in a large pot.

4. Boil the bamboo shoots for about 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick can easily pass thru the core.

5. Allow the cooked shoots to cool to room tem­perature in the cooking liquid. Then peel away re­maining tough outer leaves. The cooked, soft shoot should be refrigerated in fresh cold water if not used immediate­ly. Change the water every day and the shoots will stay fresh for 1 week-10 days.


1. Iri-nuka is roasted rice-bran powder. It is sold in small bags (check label with sales clerk) for about ¥85. It is used as a pickling agent and a de-earthifying  agent in many vegetable dishes. Keep half-used bags tightly closed with rubber bands—-refrigeration is advisable, but not necessary if you’re going to use it within 1-2 months.

2. Togarashi are whole dried hot red peppers. They are sold in small cellophane packs for about ¥30 a pack­age.

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TAKENOKO NO UMANI (braised, flavored bamboo shoots)


1-2 small or 1 medium sized pre-boiled bamboo shoot (see first recipe)


  • 1/2 cup dashi
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon shoyu
  • 1/2 teaspoon sake


1. Slice the bamboo shoots lengthwise (each slice will be triangular and comb­like) into 1/4 inch slices.

2. Combine nijiru (brais­ing liquid) ingredients in a saucepan and heat thru to make sure that the sugar is melted. Stir to assure even distribution of ingredi­ents.

3. Add the bamboo shoot slices to the nijiru and sim­mer (covered by an otoshi-buta or “dropped lid”) over medi­um heat for 5-6 minutes. Turn up the heat slightly and braise, without a lid for another 1-2 minutes or until the braising liquid is nearly gone. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

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SUIMONO (clear soup)


  • 4 cups flavored dashi or Oriental chicken stock
  • 1 small bamboo shoot (pre-boiled as in first re­cipe), sliced thinly
  • 3-4 fresh shiitake (black mushrooms)
  • 8-10 snow peas


1. Bring dashi or stock to a boil, lower heat and add the shiitake to the simmer­ing soup. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. “String” the snow peas, and quickly blanch them in boiling salted water. Drain, and put a few snow peas in each individual bowl.

3. Pour the hot soup over the snow peas and divide up the shiitake and bamboo slices among the bowls. Serve hot.