A friend once told me, ‘to try out new dishes from North-East India, one has to develop a taste for it, and trying out first is the best way to develop a taste for something new which we never had known.’ He admitted that at first, he could not take-in the aroma of bamboo shoot but surprisingly was quite taken away by it during his second interface with a pork-bamboo shoot curry. ‘So it is in the taste, you know’ he said. It was only after his second attempt he could win over the harsh flavor. ‘Taste differs with each of us. We come into being with what we are nurtured with. When someone is not born and grown with the flavors and taste of the indigenous herbs, it is difficult to figure out without sensing it. Trying out new dishes with open mind is what I usually do when I learn a new thing about North-East food,’ he said.
Cuisines from North East States of India are simple. They are steamed, blanched, boiled, less spicy and have pretty many varieties of mashed and mix dishes. The flavors have been combinations of locally available edible herbs with both vegetables and meat items. One of such ingredients ubiquitously liked by almost all households is bamboo shoot. It is a favored ingredient for its somewhat distinct aroma which makes a dish significantly different. Bamboo shoots are the new clumps that come out to the surface from an adjoining main bamboo. They are mostly conical in shape and found tapering to the top. It has hard outer covering and a tender inner core with a faint tempting flavour.
Bamboo shoots are high on nutritional value, low in fat, rich in vitamins, cellulose and amino acids. They are commonly used in many households for making broth, curries and chutneys. They are used in preserved form – fermented or pickle, raw fresh or even dried. The Mizos call them ‘Tuai/Raw Tuai‘, while they are known as ‘Uusoi‘ for the fresh bamboo shoot and the fermented bamboo shoots are known as “Soibum“. In Nagaland they are called bas-tenga. In Assam, they are referred to as ‘khoris’ for the fermented and or ‘gaz/bahgaz’ to the fresh ones and in Sikkim they are called ‘tama’ for the fresh one and ‘mesu’ for the soury fermented one
While choosing a bamboo shoot, check out for its freshness. It should not be pale and dry. Although they come with husks, peeling them is easy and they are to be removed until the soft whitish core is reached. Once they are peeled, the shoots should be moist and specimen should bear tender-crisp flesh. The older shoot tend to be bitter (not much), tough and fibrous.
After the husks are removed, the edible parts are washed thoroughly after which cutting them into two halves vertically make chopping a bit an easier task. The chopped pieces are parboiled for say about 30 minutes or until they are crispy tender. While boiling add salt lightly and few chilies to enhance flavor and getting away with the bitter-y taste. After the water is cooled down, take the pieces out of the water and rinse them thoroughly in running water. They then can be transferred to a container or a clean bottle and stored with water filled in. Do change the water every day. Use these chopped pieces to make curries. Storing for long time, the bamboo shoots emits a typical soury aroma which is tough, tangy and bears hues of a dominant aroma. In many households bamboo shoots have become a part of traditional cuisine whether cooked, fresh, dried, shredded or pickled, its distinct aroma unify with many very basic spices.
Writer’s own tried and tasted recipes
A very simple side dish of bamboo shoots (parboiled) which I have always liked is by mixing small thinly sliced of parboiled shoots with finely chopped green coriander leaves, green chilies, red onions, ginger and adding salt to taste. Mix all evenly with a table spoon of raw mustard oil. (a somewhat representative of this is seen in the picture taken from internet on the right) Light soury preserved bamboo shoots with added garlic, red chilies, salt is also a wholesome savory in itself.
Bamboo shoots goes well with different types of non vegetarian items especially pork, chicken and small fresh water fishes. Pork with added bamboo shoots is a delightful delicacy in north east India. Whether the dish is boiled, deep fried, smoked or roasted, a pork-bamboo shoot dish blends well with onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, tomatoes, cilantro (green coriander leaves) and potatoes. Another way to have is to mix pork with ginger garlic paste, finely chopped onions, finely chopped chilies, fresh bamboo shoots or pickled one. Put them in the pressure cooker along with ½ cup of water. Cook till 5 or 6 whistles in medium flame.
You can even add slices of boiled or pickled bamboo shoots in noodles or fried rice, in salad or in soups. They tend to be little crispy, juicy and above all adds a fusion to any dish. Another favored recipe is adding the pickled bamboo shoots with boiled potatoes and mixing them softly by mashing with palms or bottom of a spadle. One can make the pickle by storing the dry bamboo shoot, chilies in a tight container with mustard oil added playfully to cover the ingredients.
Compiled Recipes :
The two recipes shared below are authentic bamboo shoot recipes from the North-East region. They have been prepared in a simple homely way and capture the taste that is loved by many.
Pork with Dried Fermented Bamboo Shoot
- Pork- 1 KilogramDried fermented bamboo shoot- 1 Cup
- Garlic paste- Half cup
- Dried red chili- 10-12 (Make a paste)
- Salt to taste
- Heat a wok
- Add Pork and roast until it gets bouncy and little cooked
- Add garlic paste, mix well, cover and cook on low flame for 15 minutes
- Add bamboo shoot, water (The meat shouldn’t submerge in water) and salt, cover again.
- Keep checking for every 5-10 minutes. The meat should separate from the bones when it gets cooked
- Add the dried red chilli paste and half cup water
- When water start to boil, turn off the heat. Let it cool for sometime
- Add fresh coriander leaves and serve with warm rice
Bamboo Shoot Eromba from Manipur
Eromba is a traditional chutney of the Meitei’s residing in the Imphal valley in North East India. This is a really spicy chutney made with the combination of the favorite local ingredients like fermented dried fish, fermented bamboo-shoot and Raja/King chilli.
This chutney will make it’s appearance in a lot of the dinner tables of the Naga’s residing in Manipur, but not so much in Nagaland. A chutney is a MUST for lunch and dinner, and so according to the main dish, a chutney will be made that will compliment the main dish.
Eromba goes beautifully well with Pork curry, made the traditional way. The key to a good eromba is the quality of the fermented fish, the fish should be close to sweet smelling and the best way to judge is to just pick up the most expensive one in the market. It’s okay to make it with any chili that’s available at hand, but it taste best when made with dried Raja/King chili. Here’s the recipe.
- 2 Medium Sized – Potatoes
- 5 Medium Sized – Dried Fermented Fish
- 1 Big – Raja Chilli
- 1 Medium – Onion, Sliced evenly
- 6-7 Pods – Garlic
- 1/2 Cup -Fermented Bamboo Shoot
- Salt – According to taste
- Pressure cooks the potatoes and bamboo shoot. Peel the potatoes and keep aside
- Roast the fermented fish and King chilli (you can use an old slotted spoon for this purpose) and keep aside
- Put the cleaned garlic pods, the roasted ingredients, some salt and mash it together to bring out a paste
- Mash the potatoes; mix it with the bamboo shoot.
- To this mixture add the paste and mix it really well. Add about 2-3 Tbsp of water to get the consistency you want.
- Garnish it with the sliced onions and some coriander leaves if you want.
The quantity will be just right for 3-4 people. Have it over plain rice and pork curry and you have a complete lip-smacking meal.
BAMBOO-SHOOT YELLOW CURRY WITH ROTI AND RICE
- 1 litre (4 cups) coconut cream
- 2 litres (8 cups)coconut milk
- 4 kg chicken thigh fillets, skin on, or small chicken pieces
- 1 butternut pumpkin (about 1kg), cut into 5cm pieces
- 135 gm (½ cup) shaved light palm sugar
- 125 ml (½ cup) fish sauce
- 150 gm tamarind pulp, mixed with 125ml hot water and strained through a fine sieve
- 20 kaffir lime leaves, torn
- To serve: Thai basil, lime wedges, roasted cashews, shaved red shallots and steamed jasmine rice
- 1 kg (6 2/3 cups)plain flour
- 600 gm coconut oil, melted and cooled to room temperature (see note)
- 80 gm margarine
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds, dry-roasted
- 12 cardamom pods, dry-roasted
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, dry-roasted
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- 10 long red chilies, coarsely chopped
- 30 small dried red chilies, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, drained
- 20 garlic cloves
- 12 red shallots
- 150 gm (8cm piece) fresh turmeric
- 30 gm (6cm piece galangal
- Thinly peeled rind of ½ kaffir lime
- 2 tbsp shrimp paste, roasted (see note)
- 3 coriander roots, scraped
- 01: For roti, combine flour, 3 tsp salt and 500ml water in a bowl and knead with your hands to form a soft dough, then turn onto a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Break into 20 balls and place in a single layer on a tray. Cover with coconut oil, dot with margarine and rest in a cool place (overnight). Working with one ball at a time, stretch the dough, pressing and pushing it with the palm of your hand, until transparent, then pick up the dough and allow it to stretch, pleat and twist itself under its own weight into a long piece. Roll the length of dough into a coil, then flatten the coil to a 20cm disc and transfer to a sheet of baking paper. Repeat with remaining dough and baking paper, stacking the roti as you go. Store in an airtight container until ready to cook. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tsp of the coconut oil from the tray and cook roti one at a time, turning once, until golden (1-2 minutes each side).
- 02 : For curry paste, finely grind spices and 1 tbsp sea salt flakes in a mortar and pestle, then transfer to a food processor with remaining ingredients and process to a fine paste.
- 03 : Stir 400ml coconut cream in a large saucepan over high heat until oil separates from cream, then add curry paste and fry until fragrant (3-5 minutes). Add remaining coconut cream and milk, bring to the simmer, reduce heat to low-medium, add chicken and pumpkin and simmer until tender (20-40 minutes). Stir through sugar, fish sauce, tamarind liquid and lime leaves, adjusting seasoning to taste. Serve hot scattered with Thai basil, lime wedges, roasted cashews and red shallots, with warm steamed jasmine rice and warm roti to the side.
Note Coconut oil is available in jars from select delicatessens and health-food shops. To roast shrimp paste, wrap it in foil and roast at 180C until fragrant (15 minutes).
This recipe is from the November 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller