Curried or Dry- Fried Tender Shoots of Bamboo.
Tender bamboo is a seasonal delicacy, and can be salted or frozen for use through the year. It grows in clumps along riversides, in forests and, a dwarf variety, prized by the Coorgs, is found on the higher slopes of the hills, known as wote bimbale(Ochlandra travancorica). The spiny bamboo that grows along river -banks has perhaps the best flavour. With the first showers of monsoon rain, the bamboos begin to put out tender shoots that cut through the earth in pointed cones. These are gathered before they grow too woody and hard, and carried home. If unavailable, tinned bamboo shoots are a reasonably good substitute, although they will lack the full richness of the fresh shoots. The cones of tender bamboo are stripped of their thick, outer covering until the pale, tender flesh is reached. This is chopped or sliced, and soaked in water for 48 hours, to remove the toxic acids that it contains. The water is changed every 24 hours, and the bamboo ferments gently, retaining a tang when cooked. The bamboo is finally rinsed before cooking.
Sometimes this process is skipped altogether and the bamboo chips given a quick, fierce boil, the water drained, and the chips used in a curry or fry. Although I have done this, I still prefer to follow the longer process of soaking, since the sour tang from the fermentation adds interest to the curry or fry. Bimbale curry is eaten with akki ottis (rice rotis) with a splash of hot, melted ghee, or limejuice, according to taste.
Two Recipes for Bamboo Shoots. One curried, One Fried
500g tender bamboo shoots, sliced or chopped finely, and lightly boiled with salt to taste, 1 level tsp turmeric, a couple of fresh green chillies, a sliced onion and 8-10 curry leaves
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 5 dried red chillies
- ¼ teaspoon peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon rice
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 2 medium sized onions
- 1 tbsp oil
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the dry spices, and fry them, stirring constantly, until they change colour and darken a few shades, but do not allow them to turn dark brown.
- Cool, and grind with the onions into a smooth paste.
- Add to the boiled bamboo shoots, and cook for a further 15 mins, adding 1-2 cups of hot water depending on how much liquid you want.
- To season: Crush 2 cloves of garlic, 1 red chilly, ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry this in 2 tablespoons hot oil and pour over the tender bamboo curry
- ½ tsp whole cumin
- ½ tsp rice
- ¼ tsp peppercorns
- ¼ tsp fenugreek
Dry roast the above spices individually to a deep brown on a tava, cool, grind separately and sprinkle over the curry before serving.
Fried Bimbale Recipe
For a simple, but very tasty dry fry -
- Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil
- Drop in 3-4 dried red chillies
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 4-5 pods of crushed garlic
- Add the boiled bamboo shoots,and stir for about 10 mins, until all the water evaporates, but the bamboo is still juicy and moist. This gives you the taste of the bamboo it its purest form.
It is optional to sprinkle with the same roasted masalas as you would for the curry; personally, I prefer it without the roasted masalas, as the flavour of the tender bamboo comes through.
Image Credits: Nithin Sagi