26 Aug2010


Several years ago, while on a trip to Subic Bay, a local Aetan man showed us how they cooked rice while foraging in the forest. They take a section of a large fresh bamboo pole, cut into it, and add rice and water and cook it over a wood or charcoal fire until done. The concept fascinated me at the time, so simple, so clever, so organic, so bio-degradable, so renewable, so self-contained, so brilliant. It’s how I imagine islanders boiling or steaming before the advent of cheap pottery, and much later, the home department of SM Department Stores with their selection of aluminum or stainless steel pots and pans… I filed that experience in the back of my mind, and was reminded of it during recent conversations with a foreign chef who had mentioned trying a version of this at the restaurant in the Serendra Complex of Fort Bonifacio. So I decided to give it a go.


First off, the bamboo pole. I wanted a really thick, green and fresh pole. We couldn’t find one to buy anywhere convenient in Metro Cebu, so we sacrificed a healthy pole from our own backyard for the experiments. I didn’t realize that at the upper end, where the pole is younger and narrower, the nodes or joints have not yet sealed within, so you can have several sections with water and other creatures that might have worked their way in somehow. So we sawed off the top 3 sections until we found a solid “canister” that was closed on both ends.


We used a small saw to cut neatly through the bamboo. A machete or bolo would have been more authentic, but I probably would have split open the bamboo so better safe than sorry… Thank goodness “Isoy” our capable crew member from Toledo, was handy with a saw and a bolo!


Notice how the bamboo is now “solid” or “closed” at the joint. We used a large knife/bolo to cut into one side of the bamboo pole.


We also tried to cook rice in a pole section that was open at one end, using folded up banana leaves to act as a plug or cover.


Just add dry rice and water close the cover and tie shut with some abaca twine.


For the other version banana leaves to “seal” the top and you cook this upright.


The first canister of rice we cooked on the edge of an existing charcoal fire that was cooking up a large lechon. Some of the drippings fell onto the bamboo container… and that gave me an idea for the next iteration of the experiment.


After about 40 minutes, our first experiment yielded BRILLIANT rice. Just a touch fragrant from cooking in the bamboo, but clean and fresh tasting. Amazing.


As a cooking and serving vessel, it was wonderful. no washing when finished eating, will naturally biodegrade, etc.


We were so happy with the results of the version cooked lying down (the vertical version wasn’t as good, and I think that method is best for soups and stews) I immediately cooked up half a kilo of lechon sisig with onions, garlic, ginger, chilies, capsicum and soy sauce and add that to the raw rice and water, hoping it would naturally distribute itself over the top of the rice…


We cooked this for closer to 1 hour, and started to worry when the bamboo started to burn a bit.


But the results were AMAZING! Say an 7.5 or 8.0 out of 10.0. Not bad for a first attempt. And totally cooked in the bamboo. Some restaurants seem to cook the rice outside the bamboo container and then just stuff it into the bamboo as a sort of fancy serving vessel. The problem with this version of ours is that it lacked a little flavor, the rice absorbed so much of it… The next time, I will make the “toppings” saltier and more flavorful. But just look at it, pretty appetizing, no?


We wiped out everything we cooked. A little sprinkle of kikkoman made a big difference. Good thing this was just a practice session. Tomorrow we do it again to celebrate three birthdays in our office in Cebu. Will try some other variations to see what else we can do with the bamboo rice. YUM.



  1. MrsKookie says:

    Now im craving for the bamboo rice at Abe. Nice! A successful experiment, MM! :) I wonder if you can “reuse” the bamboo…

    Aug 26, 2010 | 6:31 pm


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  3. Jaja says:

    That’s one heck of mouthwatering rice dish, MM! :)

    Aug 26, 2010 | 6:34 pm

  4. grace says:

    I was reading a book set in Burma and they mentioned cooking rice in bamboo; It was usually the rebels that cooked it this way so it was christened Rebel Rice.

    Aug 26, 2010 | 6:34 pm

  5. lee says:

    Bamboo sisig rice. Hmmmm…

    Aug 26, 2010 | 7:03 pm

  6. silly lolo says:

    What a fascinating miind you have, Mr. MM! Your curiosity and passion for food definitely shows up in this post. You are my hero!
    How about lining the inside of a rice pot with bamboo strips? That might give you the flavor you want.

    Aug 26, 2010 | 9:43 pm

  7. millet says:

    i’m imagining rice with shrimp, mushrooms (especially the native and more flavorful straw mushrooms), and maybe a bit of bamboo shoot for texture.

    Aug 26, 2010 | 10:13 pm

  8. Mugik says:

    This looks so good! its making me feel dizzy…. in a good way. :-)

    Aug 26, 2010 | 10:29 pm

  9. rose says:

    patikim naman, please!!!

    Aug 26, 2010 | 11:12 pm

  10. k. ramos says:

    An adobo rice, perhaps? Or a bamboo version of paella?

    Aug 27, 2010 | 12:08 am

  11. acmr says:

    Uh, I couldn’t see past the lechon…..

    Aug 27, 2010 | 1:29 am

  12. charlie says:

    My father also cooks pesang dalag(mudfish) using bamboo over a bed of charcoal.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 2:23 am

  13. Pam says:

    Wow. That’s wonderful. Growing up in the US and on our known packaged processed food, I really long for the simple and organic cooking of our ancestors. It’s so amazing how it’s such a natural way of preparing and serving food and whatever’s left over is biodegradable – not to mention how much better it taste!

    Aug 27, 2010 | 2:52 am

  14. cora says:

    very eco-friendly food and really simple! i miss this kind of
    food preparations and cooking……..and now i’m hungry :)
    wish i could do that here in the u.s.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 3:16 am

  15. EbbBlue says:

    I have watched a segment of Pinoy Travel on cable here at Texas, and the host did visit an Aeta tribe and with the “wild”chicken that they caught, he was shown how the village cook their rice the way MM have featured here. And ever since then idea has been playing on mind on cooking this way when I come back to Pinas on my annual ministry trip on May. My cousins and have been blessed with “major-major” bamboo plants and it would not have a problem getting as much bamboo as we can. I think it will be a great hit for our after-graduation meal (following a year-long children’s bible class). With a staff of 12 plus 10 teachers, we will sure have a fantastic rice & dish combination in a biodegradable bamboo poles. Thank you very much Mr. MM.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 3:41 am

  16. atbnorge says:

    There is Silly Lolo! How are you, Sir?

    I suddenly remember the rice pudding they make in my mother’s barrio in Tarlac which they call tinubong—sticky rice with brown sugar and coconut cream flavored with pandan inside a bamboo and baked in an underground oven. It was deliciously unforgettable!

    Aug 27, 2010 | 5:33 am

  17. Maricel says:

    Amazing! The sisig bamboo rice looks so scrumptious.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 8:28 am

  18. mojito drinker says:

    nice. i just had the bamboo rice in abe the other day. mmm. and ya i remembered the same aeta demonstration in subic :p

    Aug 27, 2010 | 9:59 am

  19. joyce says:

    oohh coool. i ate rice in bamboo a few months ago in central china. they used mushrooms, bits of organic chicken and smoked pork with the rice. you make it look so easy although i imagine it would be harder to get a sealed bamboo pole in manila.
    i know the filipino restaurant abe serves this as well.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 10:05 am

  20. junb says:

    I’ve seen it in one of the episode of Table Scape where a tribesman show to Chef Bruce how to cook in a bamboo as well as another show at AFC where Indonesia also have the similar dish cook in a bamboo pole. Anthony bourdain’s also has one of his travel in Vietnam where a bamboo is used to cook a dish. It’s a dying tradition in Philippines that we should help to revive.

    MM, Maybe next time you cook a Zubuchon, you may want to stuff a rice dish to the bamboo that you used inside the cavity of the lechon while cooking it. Hmmmmm YUMMY !!!!

    Aug 27, 2010 | 12:10 pm

  21. Joanjean says:

    if these are the food I can find in the jungle (zubuchon+bamboo rice), I want to live in the jungle forever! :P

    Aug 27, 2010 | 12:12 pm

  22. farida says:

    MM, this reminds me of the time when my father,bless his soul, placed chicken in a bamboo pole and put it into a hole in the ground, covered it with something and placed the fire(coals?) on top of it. We called it sinugong nga manok. I remember it was very tasty and tender. Now, that was a free range chicken too. I think he was experimenting too, as I can’t recall him doing it again. Although, when we went to the farm the tenant would cook us chicken this way on request.

    Aug 27, 2010 | 1:10 pm

  23. tintin says:

    it’s my birthday today.. sana ganyan din handa ko! hahahaha

    Aug 27, 2010 | 2:36 pm

  24. farah says:

    pretty appetizing, yes!

    Aug 28, 2010 | 7:54 am

  25. PollyBee says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I would not have imagined such cooking method existed. I’ve seen bamboos being used for many different usage, including as a water bottle (in Japan) and it’s leaves to cook Chinese Zhong Ztse (sorry I don’t know how to write pronounciation in English) or as wrapper to hold ONIGIRI BENTO or some other convenience food for travel in the old days, but to cook directly in it – ingenius. I wish we can get hold of this ‘non-pesticide’ & ‘non-fungucide’ virgin bamboo here. Do you know anywhere in San Jose or San Francisco, California area that I might be able to purchase?
    Thank you for your time.

    Aug 29, 2010 | 2:23 am

  26. Clarissa says:

    hi :) does it really differ that much when cooked in bamboo? :) the restaurant version i tried was just normal, like you said, used as a serving vessel, but hardly differed than the usual. i’m super interested in the cooking process though. it seems a cool thing to try, like in tv :) maybe an adobo in bamboo, or other stewy/soupy dishes would be good. I just don’t know what kind of flavor the bamboo would lend :D

    Aug 29, 2010 | 9:06 am

  27. Marketman says:

    Clarissa, no it doesn’t differ that much, but there is a subtle flavor from cooking in a natural, organic vessel. Not to mention the novelty of it. PollyBee, sorry, I would have no idea where to find fresh bamboo poles in California. tintin, Happy Birthday!

    Aug 29, 2010 | 9:47 am

  28. Cathy says:

    That looks so good! Can I get this only at Abe in Serendra?

    Aug 29, 2010 | 7:40 pm

  29. KUMAGCOW says:

    but really… that lechon on top blurred my vision of the bamboo rice LOL

    Aug 29, 2010 | 9:36 pm

  30. Richard says:

    I have long been interested in what people used for cooking long before they had pottery, let alone aluminium and stainless steel pots
    The bamboo tube is a fairly obvious one; I have had sweetened sticky rice cooked in bamboo in Thailand. You simply peeled the bamboo cover to get at the rice.
    Another obvious one is a coconut shell. I have experimented with this, and managed to boil water in a coconut shell, directly on the gas stove flames, for two hours. Had I been interested in the flavour at the time, rather than the durability of the shell, I would have left the meat inside, added some wild chicken and some wild herbs, and had myself a great tinola.

    Aug 30, 2010 | 12:39 am

  31. rita says:

    wow! i would’ve never thought to cook in a bamboo. talk about going green! that lechon looks so good, too.

    Aug 31, 2010 | 11:33 pm

  32. Mitos Llarena says:

    I wonder if there are any varieties of bamboo that are not safe to use for cooking in this manner. I’m assuming that the sap from the bamboo is the one that contributes to the food’s distinct flavor.

    Sep 1, 2010 | 9:11 am


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