Bamboo shoot is one of my favourite oriental vegetables, not those uniform 1.5cm by 4cm stringy strips you get in takeaways but the real thing, preferably fresh and whole, sliced during the meal's preparation. One of my most amazing food memories is walking through the jungle in Laos, traipsing through a vast bamboo jungle when our guide saw a 2 foot high bamboo shoot sticking out from the ground. A swift kick snapped it at the base and that evening the Lanten tribeswoman peeled and simmered the beast in preparation for a breakfast dish of simple fried bamboo shoot with garlic and chili. Compared to this the tinned version really does not compare.
You can get the whole shoots in brine, true, but whilst they may be infinitely better than the tins they still suffer from not being fresh and so I have resigned myself to this being a holiday food. There is hope though as another preparation is the sour bamboo shoot where the pickling and brining plays an integral part in developing the flavour and, as it tranports fine, you can happily have the same dishes in England as you would in Asia.
The inspiration for this recipe came from a pork and sour bamboo stir fry I ate in Vietnam and Chinese pork and preserved vegetable soup. The sour bamboo shares the same salty sourness of the Chinese preserved vegetables and I imagined a similar effect could be obtained with it. The result is a lovely light soup, a perfect start to a summer meal. The saltiness of the sour bamboo adds to the stock's flavour and the bamboo itself provides a pleasant crunch, contrasting well with the meaty chew of the pork and melt-in-the-mouth tofu. You can - and I frequently do - use an Oriental chicken stock powder for these kind of soups but for one as delicate as this a homemade stocks works really well, so how convenient that I just posted a recipe.
Pork, Sour Bamboo and Tofu Soup
4 small or two large bowls (you could bulk these large bowls out with noodles to make a meal of it)
800ml-1000ml pork and chicken stock (see here), or use Chinese chicken powder
120 gr Minced pork, season with salt and white pepper.
120 gr Sour bamboo
200 gr Tofu, cubed and steeped in boiling water for a few minutes
2 Spring onion, sliced
Handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 Red chili, sliced
This is simple as simple gets.
Boil the stock and add the bamboo and tofu, simmer for a couple of minutes.
Add the mince pork, squeezing it into pieces between your thumbs as you go. Leave it to simmer for a minute before giving it a stir otherwise I find breaks down too much. Simmer for a minute or so more till just cooked through.
Add the spring onion and coriander, stir to spread, check the salt then serve immediately.
Chuck some sliced chillies on top for those that want it. As with most Oriental soups it will inevitably get a spoonful of chili oil prior to eating too.