Our first “practice” session cooking rice in fresh bamboo poles turned out surprisingly well, earlier post here. So the next day, to celebrate the birthdays of three people in the office, we decided to have a lechon, some pinakbet, the experimental chicken tinola, a grilled eggplant salad, and several versions of bamboo rice so that everyone, and I mean everyone including workers helping us build a third lechonan, could enjoy a hearty lunch.
The crew tried to outsmart themselves by wrapping the bamboo in foil, a move meant to prevent the bamboo from catching flame after some 30-40 minutes over coals, but this turned out to be a mistake. After 20 minutes, it was clear that the foil was getting in the way of attaining the highest heat within the bamboo to boil the rice, so we removed all the foil and put the bamboo directly on the coals. That’s what happens when you try to trump nature… Now we know better, and won’t use foil again.
We made two versions of bamboo rice that day. The first a chicken and mushroom rice. Saute some chopped onion and garlic in vegetable oil, add ginger if you like, then the chicken, chopped red capsicum for color (definitely none of this in the jungle), and lots of chopped mushrooms, we used shiitakes, white and oyster mushrooms. We seasoned heavily with kikkoman soy sauce, some hoi sin sauce and added salt and cracked black pepper. Into each piece of bamboo, we added the rice, water and lots of the chicken mixture, putting it on the flames and cooking it for some 40-45 minutes on high heat. The results were very good, with the chicken and most of the flavoring remaining in the top half of the dish, seeping down towards the middle. The balance of flavors was better this time, and if there is one conclusion I can make, it is that restaurant versions of this cook their rice separately and they simply serve it in the bamboo vessels. Rice really cooked in the bamboo would not have a very well mixed consistency with ingredients that tend to float, etc. I wanted to add bamboo shoots to this dish, but couldn’t find any after scouring several groceries in Cebu. Bamboo shoots are in season in Manila these days, so they would make sense in this dish right now.
We also made an improved bamboo sisig rice version (bamboo pole in the rear of the third photo, above). The sisig was sauteed until drier and darker, and we added far more soy and hoi sin sauces. It turned out extremely well. The cooking time makes offering this kind of dish at a restaurant rather difficult, but if you have a chance to try this at home, I strongly recommend it. :)