I was walking through the small grocery store at our local club yesterday, and I was delighted to find small, enticing packets of fresh bamboo in brine! It’s hard not to get excited by new ingredients, especially vegetarian ones! It’s not like I’ve never used bamboo shoots before, but they usually come out of a tin, and look like tender shoots or tips. These “bamboo shoots” are more like large pieces of bamboo, about 3 inches in diameter (see picture below), and much tougher than a traditional shoot, but full of flavour.
Bamboo shoots, while associated with Chinese cuisine, are also commonly used in the food of the regions in India where they grow, in both fresh and dried form. In fact the bamboo stem is used as a tube for steaming dishes on an open fire across the Northeast, while bamboo “shoots” are grated and cooked in dals, added to chicken curries, or fermented and added as an ingredient to make a delectable pork curry! There is a world of spicy bamboo recipes to explore!
Coincidentally, while walking home that day, I strolled by my local fruit vendor and for the first time noticed the beautiful pile of green water chestnuts on his basket. A second new ingredient that has literally been right in front of my face! While water chestnut flour is used extensively for making bread during cereal-free Hindu fasts, I had never really cooked with fresh water chestnuts. They are such luscious corns, with the crunch of under ripe apples yet without the sweetness.
Since both these ingredients add bite to a salad but are a bit bland, they go well with the South East Asian flavours of roasted garlic and shallots, energized by bold heat of roasted chilies. A touch of pomelo adds a bitter-sweetness to balance out this salad. I’ve added fried noodles on top for an added texture and snap, not to mention that these snow-white puffy noodles add elegance to this dish. Try this! It is a visually enticing, multi-textured salad, with unusual, robust, tantalising flavours – it will be a definite hit with your dinner guests!
Bamboo and Water Chestnut Salad
brined bamboo shoots, sliced about 200g (or canned)
15 fresh water chestnuts, about 150g
4 baby corn, thinly sliced along the diagonal
3 segments pomelo
½ teaspoon sesame oil
2 green onions, sliced into thin circles
3 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 shallots, sliced thinly lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, sliced in rounds
2 dry red chilies, or 1 teaspoon crushed chilies
3 tablespoons chickpea flour or besan
6 tablespoons oil
A handful of thin rice noodles
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
Slice bamboo shoots into thin slices of about 2” by ¼” in size. Cover with water and boil in a saucepan for 6-8 minutes until tender but form. Drain and cool.
Combine shallots and garlic slices and roast on a baking tray in hot oven for 8 minutes or until browned.
If using whole dried chilies, dry roast on a frying pan on high heat for 3-4 minutes until chilies start browning. Pound in mortar until you get a coarse powder.
Pound together chilies, shallots and garlic in a mortar.
Peel tough outer green covering of water chestnuts. Slice chestnuts into thin slices along length.
Steam baby corn slices for 2-3 minutes until soft. Cool.
Remove peel and white pith from pomelos, and separate about 3 segments. Clean membranes from segments and break into ½” pieces.
Combine bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn, pomelo, green onion, and 3 tablespoons coriander in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix.
Combine dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl. Pour dressing over salad, tossing well to mix. Combine ¾ths of shallot mixture into salad.
Garnish with chickpea flour and remaining shallot-garlic-chili mixture.
Critical Ingredients: If you don’t have fresh bamboo shoots, canned will work just fine, as will canned water chestnuts. If you don’t have an oven, go ahead and fry the shallots and garlic in oil. The oil in which these are fried is usually added to the dressing. Chickpea flour adds crunch but can be left out if not available. Pomelo can be substituted with grapefruit, blood orange or navel oranges.