Takenoko or bamboo shoot is a quintessential harbinger of spring in Japan. My mother bought a couple of beautiful, huge shoots at a grocery store in Kyoto last week and had then shippedh ome to Yokohama. So now we're in the middle of takenoko heaven: takenoko rice, takenoko in stir-fries, and much more. As a change of pace from all the traditional takenoko dishes, I made this very creamy, subtle soup that was a big hit. The gentle flavor of the takenoko comes through very well, and it's a great way to use up bits of the shoots that aren't as good looking, like the heel. And the creaminess is not derived from a flour-based roux (it's thickened with cooked rice), so this soup is gluten-free. (You can make it vegan by replacing the butter with oil, but the flavor is better with butter.)
If you're in Japan or have access to a very well stocked Japanese grocery store, you may have access to fresh bamboo shoots. If so, follow the instruction here for pre-cooking them . Otherwise, use vacuum-packed precooked bamboo shoot if you can. If you can't find that either, canned, boiled, unflavored bamboo shoot (not pickled or dried) will do, although it won't be as flavorful.
A gentle, creamy yet umami-packed soup made with bamboo shoot.
Prep time: 5 min :: Cook time: 25 min :: Total time: 30 min
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: about 1 cup
I used a gorgeous, naturally sweet white miso, also from Kyoto in this recipe. Use saikyo miso if you have it (see Miso primer ), or just a plain white miso.
I made this with some leftover rice. If you don't have any around, you can use 1 tablespoon of raw uncooked rice instead. In that case, increase the water to 1 1/2 cups and simmer for 20 minutes instead of 15, before the pureeing step.
If you don't have leek, use a medium onion instead.
You can try this method with many other precooked vegetables. Just steam, boil or even microwave any of these until tender, and use instead of the bamboo shoot.
By Makiko Itoh
Published: May 04, 2011
Type: soup, japanese, vegetarian