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Yunnan bamboo shoots 云南竹笋


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Bamboo shoots have just recently hit the markets in a big way here in Kunming and I had to have some a couple days ago even though they will be cheaper in another week or so. I realize that bamboo shoots are not exclusive to Yunnan, and different parts of China have different varieties. Some of those others require parboiling to remove bitterness, but these Yunnan bamboo shoots don't.


Here's what they look like in the wet market. The vendor will weigh them first and then trim off the woody inedible outside parts if you ask her. Right now they are going for 15 Yuan per kilo; later they will come down 10 Yuan per kilo. This vendor specializes in local root items, and to the left you can see lotus roots.

A side-note digression on weights of fresh vegetables and fruits in the market. The convention differs from place to place in China and, oddly enough, when vendors quote the price per jin/斤 they can either mean a gong jin/公斤 (a kilogram) or a 市斤/shi jin, which is 500 grams. Need to ask to make sure.

When selling smaller or more expensive fresh items, such as dry spices or wild mushrooms, they generally sell by the 两/liang. Similar to the above, this can either be a 公两/gong liang which is 100 Grams, or a 市两/shi liang, which is 50.

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To cook these things, which are after all fibrous but tender young parts of a tree, one needs to slice them thin. You can either use small slices, or julienne slivers, such as I did here.

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Found some good looking 火腿/huotui in the market on the same trip and decided to use some of it with the bamboo shoots. Bamboo shoots are bland, and huo tui imparts a distinctive complimentary flavor.

The most sought after kind of 火腿 here is from 宣威/Xuanwei, a small town (县城) in 曲靖/Qujing, a prefecture in NE Yunnan. Other places make excellent huotui too, notably Zhejiang, where Jinhua ham 金華火腿 comes from.

Huotui is fairly expensive and the piece pictured cost 50 Yuan. But it will last a long time, since one seldom uses a lot at any one time. I think of it more as a condiment than as a protein source. Could have just as well used sliced pork loin 里脊/liji in this dish.

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Added thinly sliced red bell peppers/红椒 because they have a gentle flavor that doesn't compete with the bamboo shoots and they make the dish look good. Might as well please they eye as well as the palate.

Ready to rock and roll now. Small plate on the lower right has 干辣椒/gan lajiao/dried red chilies and a couple cloves of minced garlic. Small dish on the left has a mix of light soy sauce/酱油/jiang you, yellow (rice) wine 黄酒/huang hiu, and a splash of aged vinegar/老陈醋/lao chen cu. I added a pinch of sugar to balance the vinegar, because the dish doesn't really need to be either sour or sweet.

First sauteed the aromatic ingredients (garlic and chilies) quickly (15 or 20 seconds,) being careful not to burn them, then added the huotui. Next the bamboo shoots and red bell peppers. Stir fry 炒/chao until the bamboo shoots were tender, approximately 15 minutes. Don't walk away; stay stove side and continue to work it with the spatula/锅铲/guo chan.

Can add a pinch of salt if needed and MSG 味精/wei jing if you like it.


The finished product. Serve with steamed rice. This is a tasty and straight forward way to prepare this seasonal item.

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Bamboo shoots are also a speciality round here. In fact, Liuzhou bamboo shoots were featured in the first episode of the excellent A Bite of China (舌尖上的中国) television series (which , if you haven't seen you must. You can see the stream of the full series by following this link - available in English French and Spanish.)

Here is my translation of the relevant page from the book which accompanies the series.

Bamboo shoots

Alternative title: Bamboo production

Origin: Suichang, Zhejiang; Liuzhou, Guangxi

Selection criteria: fresh bamboo shoots’ roots are “mole” red, skin colour bright yellow, with a blush of pink or yellow, flesh white like jade.

Spacing between nodes should be close, texture plump.

Nutritional value: rich in protein, full of acid, fat, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, vitamins and others

Food Combinations, Good and Bad

Suitable combinations:

Bamboo shoots and kidney: benefits kidney and urinary tract.

Bamboo shoots and pork: lower blood sugar

Bamboo shoots and egg: maintenance of the skin, digestive health

Bamboo shoots and oyster: promotes healing of wounds, prevent colds

Combinations to avoid:

Bamboo shoots and sheep liver: reduces the nutritional value

Bamboo shoots and brown sugar: easy formation of harmful substances

Bamboo shoots and squid: reduces the body’s absorption of calcium

Health effects: appetite, bowel functions, lung, strengthens the immune system

Storage: fresh bamboo shoot to be stored should not be peeled, otherwise they will lose their fragrance. Store in airtight containers, out of direct sunlight. Should be placed in a cool dry place.

Classic dishes: Suitable for stir frying, roasting, stewing in soy sauce, tossed in sauce, particularly improves meat cookery.

Common dishes include stir fried bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms with pork, spring bamboo shoots with fish, spring bamboo shoots with bacon, bamboo shoots and chicken stew, etc.

Bamboo shoots very easily absorb the flavours of other foods. They are “masters” at gaining advantage from both sides.

P.S. The same episode starts with Yunnan mushroom collecting and processing.

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Many thanks. I have that excellent series on DVD, but I don't have the book. Enjoyed watching it a lot after it first came out. Remember the part you mentioned on mushrooms, but had forgotten that they covered bamboo shoots. I'll go back and re-watch it. Appreciate the text translation.

I'm devastated to learn that bamboo shoots with squid are on the notorious TCM "should not eat together" list. That was one of my favorite dishes; had bamboo with squid all the time. It was right up there with persimmon and goose, which I also now assiduously avoid. (Just kidding on these.)

Are 竹笋 in season now in Liuzhou? I've found the timing can be different here from one mountain or valley to the next. Last year I ate tons of them in remote mountainous Mojiang 墨江, in Pu'er Prefecture, while visiting friends. We literally had them twice a day.

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The leftovers:

Had a nice chunk of bamboo left in the fridge and cooked it up quickly today into a different stir fry, Thought I'd let you see how versatile this ingredient can be.

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Today, instead of cutting the bamboo into julienne matchsticks, I just sliced it thinly off the main chunk, forming small, asymetric "chips" or "flakes." Once again, when using this kind of Yunnan summer bamboo there's no need to pre-soak it or parboil it; it has no bitter taste and isn't toxic.

Instead of the huotui 火腿 we used before, today I diced a small length of sausage/xiangchang 香肠。You can buy this in grocery stores as well as in the market. It usually comes in two or three styles, seasoned with different spices. One is slightly sweet and is called 甜味/tianwei. Another popular style in these parts is 麻辣/mala, which is spicy hot with added Sichuan prickly ash/花椒/huajiao.

Most Chinese sausage has a good deal of fat. I use it more as a condiment than as a real meat source. Probably not smart to buy the cheapest kind available, because it can contain all kinds of extraneous stuff that you really don't want to eat. Ranges in price here from about 20 Yuan to about 80 Yuan per 公斤 (1000 Grams.)

Cut up a ripe tomato, pre-salted it and let it stand to get rid of some of the watery juice.

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Ready to cook. Bottom right is a couple cloves of 大蒜 /dasuan/garlic, minced coarse, and three 干辣椒/gan lajiao/dried red chilies torn in half. No need to chop these chilies. When you get some of the cooked pods in your served food, don't eat them; just fish them out with your chopsticks. The pepper flakes will have dispersed and lent the dish flavor.

Top left is a small bowl of liquid ingredients, mixed together like before: light soy sauce, cooking wine, aged vinegar and a tiny pinch of sugar.

Preheat the wok and add oil as usual. First the chilies and garlic go in; sautee very briefly and add the diced sausage. Half a minute or so more, add the bamboo. Cook it until tender but still al dente crisp, turning all the time. This usually takes 10 or 15 minutes.

When the bamboo is just about ready, add the liquid ingredients and the tomatoes half a minute or so later. The tomatoes need to go in very near the end or else they break down into unattractive red mush. Add salt and MSG to taste. The MSG is, of course, completely optional.

Prep time under 30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

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Is that sausage in #5 really called 香腸 in Kunming? AFAIK It is a 臘腸.

PS - Talking about 臘腸, the easiest way to cook them is to put them (after washing) in the water on top of uncooked rice in the rice cooker and let them cook together with the rice. No need to do anything extra at all. Then briefly soften some lettuce in boiled water (with some salt and a bit of oil, if desired) and dress it with oyster sauce, and you have a meal with sausages, veggie and rice.

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I do like that trick of making rice and sausage together in the rice cooker, and then adding a side-cooked green leafy vegetable. It can save a lot of time.

Rice cooker is really a versatile machine. I recall a thread a few years ago discussing its use. Great for busy people cooking in a small apartment without much of a kitchen.

And you're right, they often do call that kind of sausage 腊肠 here as well. Not sure it's right, but I think of 香肠 as being plumper. But this piece, for whatever reason, was labeled 香肠。It wasn't much bigger around than my thumb.


Since we're talking about the sausage, I was puzzled by the 广味 designation. Do you know what that might mean? Sometimes I buy another brand that tastes the same, and it's labeled 原味, which I think just means "original flavor."

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The only way I ever cook Chinese sausage is on top of the rice. When the rice is ready I throw the sausage away! I hate the things. But they do add something in the way of flavour to the rice.

They get called 香肠 or 腊肠 here in Guangxi, too.

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  • 1 month later...

Great topic!

abcdefg, I'm really enjoying your posts on food in Kunming. As a newcomer to Kunming, I'm trying to find some cheap places that don't give me stomach problems, and also trying to cook more myself, so this sort of stuff is great info. If you have any free time and would like to go for a shopping trip or a meal, I'd be game. Otherwise I'll look forward to more reports from the markets and restaurants.



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#9 -- I'd be glad to introduce you to the market I use and give you some tips on buying ingredients that are fresh, tasty, and easy to turn into good dishes. There are a number of good small eateries in the immediate vicinity suitable for a casual meal in combination with a grocery shopping trip.


Unfortunately, I leave early day after tomorrow for my annual return to the US. When I come back, towards the end of December, let's do get in touch and make an unpretentious food expedition.


Welcome to Kunming!

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