How To Boil Bamboo Shoots To Remove Their Bitterness

How To Boil Bamboo Shoots To Remove Their Bitterness

You can remove the bitterness from bamboo shoots with their skins still on or peeled. What if you don't have any rice bran? You can improvise.


Raw bamboo shoots
as many as you need
Rice bran (nuka)
1 handful per bamboo shoot
If you don't have any rice bran: raw rice + the rinsing water from rinsing rice
2 tablespoons or so of uncooked rice per bamboo shoot
The amounts indicated for the rice bran and rice are approximate (see Hints)


1. Wash the bamboo shoots well. Cut the tips off diagonally. If the bottoms are dirty, cut about 1 cm off them too. Shave off any red spotty bits, which are the root ends.
2. Make some slits in the bamboo shoots lengthwise and peel off about 3 outer leaves so that the bamboo shoots will cook through better. The photo here shows bamboo shoots that have already been boiled.
3. Put the prepared bamboo shoots in a large pot, and add lots of water (or the white water from that rice has been washed in). Add the rice bran (or uncooked rice), mix it up quickly and cover with a lid. Start heating the pot.
4. Rice bran is preferred over rice grains. If the bamboo shoots you bought didn't come with a packet of rice brain, you can use uncooked rice + rinsing water instead.
5. Some people also add red chili peppers to the boiling water. This is to kill off any bacteria and to lessen the tannic flavor that's in bamboo shoots. I don't use chili peppers though since it also leaves a hot/spicy flavor on the bamboo shoots.
6. If the bamboo shoots you have are too big or you have a lot them, don't hesitate to just peel them all and cut them into 2-4 pieces each!
7. Fresh uncooked bamboo shoots have very tough outer leaves or skins. Make lengthwise cuts on opposing sides of each shoots until you can see the inner shoot, and then peel the skins off. The soft inner skin (called himekawa or "princess skin") can be used in simmered dishes and so on.
8. The advantage to cooking bamboo shoots in their skins is that the flavor and fragrance are less likely to leech out. Plus, a substance in the skins helps to bleach and tenderize the bamboo shoots.
9. Your pots may still be too small to handle whole unpeeled bamboo shoots though. This is pretty common. You can still de-bitter bamboo shoots after peeling them. Don't worry. Just be careful not to yourself when removing that tough skin.
10. Whenever I receive a lot of bamboo shoots as a gift, I always peel them before boiling them. They're still very tasty in simmered dishes and so on.
11. After the cooking water comes to a boil, it bubbles up very vigorously and threatens to spill over. So lower the heat as soon as the water comes to a boil.
12. After about an hour has passed, try poking a shoot with a bamboo skewer. If it goes through easily, turn off the heat. (It may take longer than an hour, depending on how many you're cooking and how fresh the shoots are and so on.)
13. Leave the bamboo shoots as-is until the cooking water has cooled down completely. (If you boil them in the evening, just leave the pot as is overnight.)
14. Take the bamboo shoots out. Remove the peel if they're still unpeeled. Rinse the shoots in water, then soak them in plenty of water so that the shoots are completely immersed.
15. Put the bowl of shoots and water in the refrigerator. If you change the water every day, the shoots will keep. However, they will lose some of their flavor and fragrance. I don't notice it too much though.
16. Bamboo shoots simmered with bonito flakes. Recipe ID: 2161884.
17. This is a mountain-vegetable mixed rice with bamboo shoots. Recipe ID: 2190346

Story Behind this Recipe

There is an advantage to cooking bamboo shoots before peeling them. But often, your pots may be too small to cook them whole.
Maybe if you have a very sensitive and superior palate you may be able to tell the difference between peeled vs. unpeeled boiled bamboo shoots, but but even if you cook them peeled the bitterness will be removed, and you can cook them up in delicious ways.