Local bamboo shoots with pork
Did you know that since bamboo is not very nutritious, a panda needs to spend up to 16 hours a day to hunt and eat 15-20 kgs of a special type of bamboo leaves to fill its tummy? All that chewing makes panda tired and so the other activity it does besides chewing is resting and sleeping. One of my kids loves bamboo. And sleeping. I think she may be a panda.
I grew up eating only canned bamboo because my parents, typical China-born Chinese, didn't believe in local bamboo. My China-born in-laws too never touch local bamboo, deeming it inferior to the spring bamboo and the dried bamboo they carry back from their holidays in China. That is going to change after today, because I cooked pork with local bamboo and it was delicious. I couldn't stop eating it especially since bamboo is mainly fiber and very low in calories.
Two weeks ago my friend Y gave me a bag of local sweet bamboo which she raved about. Not knowing that the bamboo had to be prepared by boiling, I fried it with pork slices straightaway. While the bamboo was sweet and crunchy, it also had a slight bitter aftertaste. It confirmed Hub's belief that local bamboo is inferior to China bamboo. This morning I was at the Dah Yeh morning market and stood next to a lady who was buying a bag of local bamboo in the shop near the pork stall. She told me that she often eats this bamboo, called sweet bamboo, and that it is tons better than the bamboo harvested by the natives. I bought two bags for RM5.
Back home, I ate a small piece of the bamboo and was very pleased with the sweet taste. But after a second, the slight bitter taste on my tongue was unmistakable. Feeling disappointed but still trusting in Y and the lady at Dah Yeh, I boiled the bamboo for 10 minutes, then changed the water and boiled it again for another 20 minutes. The bamboo not only lost its bitter taste but also its sweet taste, which was okay since bamboo is generally tasteless.
Since bamboo is generally tasteless and eaten mainly for the crunch, it needs meat to impart some savory sweetness to it. Pork is the best meat for that because it has enough fat to enrich the flavor and taste of the bamboo. Having said that bamboo is tasteless, I must tell you that there are many types of edible bamboo in China and while they are tasteless, they make up for that in aroma. Some bamboo have such strong odor, I've had my kids ask me why our storeroom smell of pee. Despite 5 layers of plastic bag and a tightly fitted lid, the stink of a certain dried bamboo from Guangzhou that my niece had given me when she visited early this year still fills the storeroom. A couple of months ago, when I was braising some pork with this stinky bamboo, a couple of British friends walked through my door and I was embarrassed to see the look on their faces. Even my Hub couldn't stand the stuff, but I can, and it was superbly tasty:
Braised dried bamboo with pork, Shanghainese style, is cooked a la typical 'red-cooked' style, with soy sauces, rock sugar and wine.
When I was in Guangzhou and Guilin 3 years ago, I visited several relatives and each time we walked in, Hub and I would exchange looks because we smelt the stink of Cantonese bamboo. When I 'tactfully' pointed the smell out, nobody knew what I was talking about. Shanghainese dried bamboo never gives off that stink and Hub remains convinced that southern Chinese bamboo is not for his consumption.
Braised Bamboo & Pork With Nam Yue
1 kg pork, with some fat on
1 kg young bamboo
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 red onion, sliced
3 pieces of nam yue (red fremented bean curd)
1 -2 t brown sugar
1 T dark soy sauce
3-4 T light soy sauce
3 T rice wine (optional)
2 cups water
1/2 t salt
2 T veg oil
Prep: Trim & cut the pork into small cubes of 3 cm and blanch briefly with boiling water. Drain. Put sliced bamboo into a pot of water and boil 10 minutes. Drain away the water and add fresh water and boil another 20 minutes. Switch off heat. Let bamboo steep in the water for about 10 minutes more and then drain away all the water.
1. Put the oil into a heated pot and add the onion, garlic and pork. Let the surfaces of the pork sear at high heat, turning once in a while.
2. When the pork has turned white, add the nam yue, mashing it with a wooden spoon and mixing it well with the pork.
3. Add all the other ingredients, cover the pot and let the pork simmer. Once in a while, check on the level of the water and add a little bit more if necessary. Stir once in a while to prevent burning.
I used a pressure cooker for 20 minutes and that gave meat so soft it fell apart so 15 minutes is probably just right.
4. If there's a lot of sauce, remove the lid and increase the heat to dry the sauce up some. Taste and season if necessary. Serve hot with with plain rice.