Panda Bears eat up to 1/3 of their weight in fresh bamboo shoots every day! An inefficient digestive system means they are unable to extract much from each mouthful so they have to pass serious volume through their plumbing to keep nourished. If they had to shop at the Salcedo market for their bamboo shoots at PHP40 a kilo, they would have to spend upwards of PHP2,000 a day on bamboo!!! That’s about PHP730,000 or USD13,000 a year! Now where would a panda bear get that kind of money just looking adorable and cute, albeit endangered? But seriously, the rains usher in all kind of new growth and bamboo shoots are here in a big way. I bought some brilliant looking bamboo shoots last year from Nueva Vizcaya and stir-fried them Chinese style. No one told me you had to BOIL them first and I nearly had throat seizures — how can a Panda digest that???
Last weekend at the market I bought another bamboo shoot after my suki explained that you had to blanch them first to remove some of the “itchiness”. Bamboo belong to the genera Bambusa, Dendocalamus, Giganthocloa, etc. and is part of the grass family, though one WHOPPING big grass if you ask me. Many bamboo shoots are edible (but not all) and some contain a lot more prussic acid that renders them dangerous for human consumption. If you peel cut, blanch and cook bamboo shoots very soon after they are harvested they have an almost sweetish, delicious flavor. Wait a few hours longer and they can get bitter. Most Chinese cooks will boil the center core of the bamboo shoot in rice washing for about 8-10 minutes (that sounds longer than just blanching it!) before stir frying. It is one ingredient that is almost as good out of a can as it is fresh and boiled. Frankly, I prefer the fresh and boiled version as it has less of that “tin can taste”. Besides the stir-fries, some people like to prepare this with gata (coconut milk) as a vegetable, or prawns and gata.