Bamboo powder 笋粉


Take a piece of tough bamboo. After cutting off the tender tip (to eat), the remainder will still be white in color and fresh tasting. On a day with clear weather, use a medicine knife to cut the bamboo into extremely thin pieces, lay them out on a clean mesh tray and leave out to dry (if they are still not dry by evening, roast using a low charcoal fire, but not a wood fire which will create smoke). Crush the fully dried pieces into powder and store any leftovers. Use this to accent soup, for making egg tofu, or to mix with finely cut meat. A pinch will add flavor when bamboo is out of season.

— 食宪鸿秘

When I bought my house in Australia, there was a charming little patch of bamboo in the backyard. Within weeks that patch had tripled in size and become significantly less charming to me, the neighbors, or the utility that ran power lines overhead. It was then that I truly understood the adage: 若有竹,已多也.

The point is, sometimes you just have too much bamboo.

That seems to be the condition we are addressing here, and the solution is ingenious. Take the part that is just a bit too fibrous to eat on its own, slice it thin, dry in the open air, and grind it to powder. This isn’t a starch powder like you would make from lotus root or shan yao, it’s purely a flavoring agent. Now that’s clever, and precisely the reason that I so dislike industrial foods that try to replicate these flavors artificially.

I ordered some winter bamboo from Zhejiang, which is a much more bamboo-ish sort of place than Beijing. I also got a package of water-packed bamboo, that is similar in taste (none) and texture (some) to the canned bamboo shoots that we used to see in stores when I was a kid. I put the two types these side by side in a bamboo drying tray.

After two days in the Beijing air, all that bamboo had shrunk down to nothing. The fresh bamboo looked like little strips of paper, but the water-packed ones had turned brown, but still didn’t taste like much. Ten seconds with a coffee grinder gave me a nice little bowl of bamboo powder.

I tried adding a spoon to soup stock and can’t say I tasted much of a difference. Not ready to give up after so much effort, I tried adding the bamboo to rice before it went in the steamer. This worked much better, giving the steamed rice a nice woodsy taste, but no discernible change in texture.

It’s a promising start. There’s much more to explore here…

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