Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Spring bamboo

Arrow bamboo shoots herald the arrival of spring. They have a short season, so enjoy them while you can

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Contributing reporter

Away from areas where the shoots are available fresh, they are sometimes sold preserved in liquid, but this convenience is not one that I have yet had to resort to. Internet comments suggest that these “preserved” shoots can be of very mixed quality and at best need to be carefully washed off before use.

Look for shoots that are firm but not stiff. They should be a creamy yellow in color and shoots with too many hints of green should be avoided. Even the best shoots may have hints of bitterness, and it is always best to blanch them in boiling water before using, regardless of what you are preparing.

Arrow bamboo shoots are rich in vitamins and nutrients and according to some food commentators they are easier to digest than other varieties of bamboo. They are also very low in calories, and generally have a good profile for weight-conscious types. For all their excellent qualities, it should be noted that arrow bamboo shoots, as with all other bamboo shoots, must not be eaten raw, as they contain cyanogenic glycosides, a chemical associated with the poison cyanide. This is the same element that can be found in plants like cassava, and must be broken down by cooking or preserving before it becomes safe to eat.

Spicy arrow bamboo shoots with beef


(Serves 4)


150g beef tenderloin (or other cut such as strip loin or blade)

150g arrow bamboo, husked

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, or white vinegar

1 tsp soy

1/4 tsp white pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large chili, finely sliced

4 stems scallions, roughly chopped

2 tbsp spicy bean paste (辣豆瓣醬)

1 tbsp rice wine

1 tsp sugar

80ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp vegetable oil


1. Check the arrow bamboo, cutting away any fibrous outer husk that may have been missed by the vendor.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt, vinegar and bamboo shoots. Bring back to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Slice the beef into thin slices and marinate in soy and white pepper for about 10 minutes.

4. Heat a wok or deep skillet and add the oil. When hot but not smoking, add the beef and sear quickly on one side over high heat. Stir once or twice, until the meat is about half cooked. Set the meat aside.

5. Using the same wok or skillet, fry the garlic until fragrant over medium heat, then add the chili and half the scallions.

6. Add in the spicy bean paste and thin it with stock, cooking it over medium heat for about a minute. Add sugar and give it a good stir.

7. Turn up the heat, then toss in the bamboo shoots and the beef, and stir vigorously to coat the shoots with the spicy sauce. Just before it’s all ready, add the rice wine and the remaining scallions.

8. Serve hot with white rice.

Ian Bartholomew runs Ian’s Table, a small guesthouse in Hualien. He has lived in Taiwan for many years writing about the food scene and has decided that until you look at farming, you know nothing about the food you eat. He can be contacted at

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