Sometimes, you just hit the jackpot — a dish so common and comforting, but done in a novel way yet with all of the familiar notes that tickle your tastebuds. This version of “adobo rice” which we cooked in a segments of fresh bamboo was a slam dunk winner! I have cooked rice in bamboo before, see these previous posts here and here, and they all turned out well, but this adobo version was to die for.
It is a pain in the ass to make. Mostly because there is no chance I would be able to craft the cooking vessels myself. One of our crew members comes from “the farm” and is extremely adept with a bolo/machete and without his help, this dish wouldn’t have been attempted. First, start off with a fresh piece of bamboo, preferably one that had just recently snapped off and still had several segments of bamboo that were usable. In other words, we didn’t even have to kill this blade of bamboo. :)
Cut the bamboo into sealed segments. We tried to be smart and cut three consecutive segments, thinking this would reduce the wasted bamboo, but this is not something I recommend, as the middle segment has difficulty heating up as much as the end segments. Essentially, you have to cut in between nodes of bamboo, ensuring you have a whole segment that is still hermetically sealed.
Isoy crafted little bamboo sticks that would be used to hold the “covers” of the segments open while they were filled with rice, water and other ingredients.
Using a very sharp machete, fairly large openings or covers were cut into each segment of bamboo. This particular bamboo, from our own backyard, was incredibly THICK and the knife work required was more intense than usual. If I were doing this, I would have less fingertips and typing on my keyboard would be a problem… :)
I then measured the volume of each bamboo segment (they vary as you head up the pole and segments get smaller) by pouring water through a funnel into each section and determined that they were roughly 5, 6 and 7 cups of volume within each section. I then put the adjusted amount of rice (a cup of dry rice expands to roughly 2.5 cups when cooked) and water into each segment.
For the adobo rice experiment, I took about 1/2 kilo of slow-cooked adobo Marketman style, and the cooks chopped this up into small cubes of meat. We then used some lard, sauteed some chopped onions and garlic and added the cubed adobo, fat included to the pan. I seasoned this with some kikkoman soy sauce, as my previous experiments had yielded bland and pale rice… so despite going through the trouble to make old-fashioned adobo with no soy sauce, I was now adding some good soy sauce to the mix. I also added in a big pinch of homemade dried siling labuyo flakes. Lots of cracked black pepper and added this mixture to the rice and water in the bamboo… the stuffing process was a bit cumbersome, but doable.
Tie the segment up with abaca twine (which is very resistant to heat) and place the bamboo just over some very hot coals for about 1-1.5 hours, depending on the heat of the fire and thickness of your bamboo. If you want to speed this process along, I suggest you start with some very warm or hot water in the segments to jumpstart the cooking process…
Snap off the “cover” and voila! Adobo rice in bamboo. The rice was infused with the flavor and oil of the adobo… the meat was generously proportioned to the amount of rice and it was moist and tasty. The little bit of chili had blossomed in the long slow moist cooking so the dish was a touch spicy, but only enough to make you want to eat more. Slam dunk I think, and all of the crew devoured two whole sections of bamboo within seconds. We also made another section with sisig and our homemade bagoong, visible here in the right-hand side of the photo above. It was okay, but a bit bland. I should have put a bit of soy sauce and much more bagoong in that one to ramp up the flavor… The next time you find yourself on a camping trip near a stand of bamboo trees, you may want to try your hand at these versions of bamboo rice…
We have toyed with the idea of offering bamboo rice in the restaurants, but I wanted to do more authentic outdoor versions, cooked over charcoal, rather than the ones that are loaded, probably semi-cooked or cooked into split bamboo and cooked/heated in a commercial steamer… Problem is, no one would wait 1.5 hours for their order of rice to come if made the old-fashioned way. :)