BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

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A delicacy in many cuisines across the globe and a harbinger of spring, bamboo shoots certainly don’t get a fair shake in western kitchens. Commonly and erroneously considered woody, bland, or worse yet, bitter, these traits apply only to the canned variety, which is the only sort that most people have ever tasted in this part of the world. Available for only a short window as the earth thaws out from winter, fresh bamboo are nothing like the sad slivers found in your average Chinese takeout. Subtly nutty, tender yet toothsome, these pale young plant growths boast a unique nuanced flavor that gets lost in translation once any preservation methods enter the picture.

Now is the time to hunt through specialty produce stores and Asian markets, while bamboo shoots are still available in their natural form. Seek out smooth, unblemished specimen, and always check expiration dates. Even if they’re vital enough to be sold, older shoots should be avoided, as they become progressively harder and more fibrous with every passing day. Considering their scarcity and perishability, it’s not hard to understand why this seasonal treasure is so fleeting. Though I had no intention of buying any nor the vaguest idea of how to cook them, I couldn’t possibly just walk away when I discovered a few saran-wrapped shoots nestled in little Styrofoam boats at the grocery store.

For reasons unknown, it struck me that diced bamboo might make an unconventional yet tasty addition to the classic vegan staple: The humble but ever-popular bean burger. Mild white beans and Asian-inspired flavorings harmonize with the mild vegetable addition without overpowering the whole assembly. Veggie burgers for people who truly appreciate vegetables, these simple patties don’t pretend to be meat and aren’t afraid to show what they’re really made of.

No average white bread buns would do to contain such a special prize. Further accentuating the theme with edible bookends that have more in common with yaki onigiri than dinner rolls, ordinary rice is out of the question. Bamboo rice, infused with the very essence of green bamboo juice, is a perfectly matched pairing, adding another layer of the starring vegetable’s inherent flavor. Floral, reminiscent of jasmine tea with gently grassy, earthy undertones, it may just be my new favorite sort of rice, even without such a fanciful preparation.

Such a hearty yet gracefully composed stack of grains, vegetables, and beans celebrates fresh spring produce through a whole new lens. You don’t have to leave them inside when the weather turns warm, though; carefully packed, unassembled patties, buns, and condiments would make for ideal picnic fodder.

Bamboo Burgers:

1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Cup Diced Fresh Bamboo Shoots
1/2 Cup Finely Diced Button Mushrooms
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 14-Ounce Can (1 3/4 Cups Cooked) White Beans, Drained
5 – 6 Scallions, Thinly Sliced
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
3/4 – 1 Cup All Purpose Flour

Rice Buns:

1 1/2 Cups Water
1 Cup Bamboo Rice
Pinch Salt
2 – 3 Tablespoons Sesame Oil

To Finish:

Sliced Tomatoes
Lettuce
Mustard and/or Vegan Mayonnaise
Fresh Parsley or Cilantro

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly grease and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. When shimmering, add in the garlic, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms, and saute until aromatic. This should take no more than 5 – 6 minutes; be careful not to overdo it and burn the garlic. Deglaze the pan with the soy sauce, turn off the heat, and let cool for at least 10 minutes minutes.

In a separate bowl, roughly mash the beans with a fork or potato masher. You want to keep the texture fairly coarse so that the burger maintains a satisfying bite. Add in the scallions and spices, mixing well to incorporate. Once cool enough to handle, introduce the sauteed vegetables and stir once more. Begin mixing in the first 3/4 cup of flour, making sure that there are no pockets of dry ingredients remaining before assessing the consistency. It should be soft but manageable; something you can fairly easily mold into patties that will hold their shape. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if necessary.

Measure out between 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the burger mixture for each patty, and form them into round, flat pucks with slightly moistened hands. Space them out evenly on the sheet at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes before removing from the sheet.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice “buns.” (This can also be done well ahead of time, to streamline the serving process.) Bring the water up to a boil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat before adding in the rice and salt. Stir once, turn down the heat to low, and cover. Cook gently for 15 – 20 minutes, undisturbed, until the water has been fully absorbed. Turn off the heat and cool for at least 20 – 30 minutes, until you can comfortably handle it.

Transfer the rice to a non-stick baking dish and press it out into an even layer of about 1/4-inch in thickness. Use a lightly greased glass round cookie cutter to punch out circles to form the bun shape. Make sure that the rounds are large enough to contain your patties, without having a lot of overhang, either. Place the shaped rice buns on a sheet pan and move the whole thing into your freezer to chill rapidly. It’s easier to fry them when they’re very cold, or even partially frozen.

Heat a thin layer of sesame oil in a pan over medium-high heat and fry no more than 2 buns at a time. Cook each side until the exteriors are nicely crisped and amber brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and repeat with the remaining rice, adding more oil to the pan as needed to prevent the buns from sticking.

To assemble your bamboo burgers, spread a dollop of mustard or mayo on one rice bun. Top with sliced tomato, lettuce, a bamboo patty, and fresh herbs, as desired. The burgers are best enjoyed hot, but are still quite tasty cooled, packed in a lunchbox, and eaten at room temperature.

Makes 6 – 8 Burgers

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

23 thoughts on “Eats, Shoots and Leaves

  1. Would love to hear about more recipes that feature fresh bamboo shoots!

  2. I had no idea that was what fresh bamboo looked like! I’ve only ever had the canned kind. Though I do like it like that!
    These burgers are so creative. I just came across bamboo/jade pearl rice for the first time recently on Keepin’ it Kind.

  3. Is that what it looks like?! Wow! And amazing recipe too! You really know your stuff :) Fabulous!

  4. I even love the name of this recipe. Bamboo Burger :)

  5. I don’t know if I have ever seen an intact bamboo shoot before. It doesn’t look anything like I would have thought it did. These burgers sound amazing. I am going to have to try and search for some shoots now!

  6. I have a source of fresh bamboo shoots not terribly far from my home. I love them. I love the canned variety as well in the context of a stir-fry. I agree they are a much underestimated vegetable.

  7. After eating fresh bamboo shoots, I can’t ever go back to the canned kind. I never thought I would see them in anything other than a stir-fry – truly an inventive use of bamboo shoots. :-)

  8. I would feel a bit panda eating bamboo shoots but I think that is fine :P
    YUM!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  9. You have really outdone yourself in this recipe Hannah. Taking what looks like immature elephant’s tusks and turning it into gorgeous burgers and those rice “buns”! What a triumph! I also get to learn about bamboo rice (although I fear it is something unattainable here but I can always infuse my own…another culinary adventure born of necessity :) ) and I get another scrumptious recipe for rice balls…YUM! Steve just upgraded to Windows 8 and when I logged in to my RSS Feed Reader this morning I was expecting about 100 posts as I haven’t been able to use the PC for 2 days but when I saw 3707 posts I almost fainted! Windows 8 had given me the last 25 posts of every single one of the blogs that I follow! I headed straight to the “purge” button and was relieved to see that I could eliminate all posts older than 48 hours old which brought it back down into the realms of possibility. I would have checked your blog before I pressed the dreaded “PURGE” button because I never want to miss out on one of your posts, they are all absolutely delicious for all of the senses :)

    • Aww, I’m so touched that you took such care to catch the latest post! I would have been sad to miss out on your ever-thoughtful, witty commentary, too. And I feel your pain about Windows 8… What a technological abortion. I still haven’t gotten used to it, and I’ve been using it for over 3 months now. Ugh!

      • The best thing about it is those lovely colour changes every few minutes in the frames around pages and word docs etc. Forget suffering from writers block from now on, Window’s 8 gives you something to look at while you are waiting for those words to come back ;). I wouldn’t miss a single one of your blog posts Ms Hannah. You are one of the most inventive and exciting vegan chefs that I know and I love to keep my finger on the pulse of good vegan tucker (translated…”tucker” = Aussie gustatory delights ;) )

  10. ohgoodgolly you’ve transcended the idea of veggie burger and made it an artform. Maybe it’s the gorgeous sculptural form of the shoots…almost too cool to eat, I kind of wish they were petrified in exactly that state so I could add to them to my fossil collection. Your ricecapped masterpiece is divine…thanks so much for sharing the recipe and the inspiration to try strange new foods! :)

  11. Hannah, your burger reminds me of some of the burgers at Gabutto Burger, at least the rice “bun.” If I can’t find fresh bamboo shoots (which are so beautiful), is there anything I could use to make your burger without them? I realize the taste would be different, but…

    janet

    • You could certainly make do with canned bamboo shoots. Just make sure that you thoroughly rinse and drain them before using. Also, give them a taste before tossing them in; if they taste bitter or metallic, blanch them briefly to take some of those unsavory flavors out. Not all canned varieties are terrible, so the burgers shouldn’t suffer if you need to substitute.

  12. Love the idea of a rice burger. Yum. Your veggie burger looks delicious. Would love to dig into it. Also. I like the texture of bamboo shoots. I should try to use it in my cooking a little more.

  13. Once every blue moon, I see fresh bamboo for sale and smuggle it home for some stir frying (and next time some bamboo burger action!) I even like the canned stuff though (don’t tell anyone, but I think I might be part panda!) And that bamboo rice looks intriguing!

  14. I love bamboo shoots, and I’m one who hasn’t seen them fresh. How lucky you are and thanks for sharing.

  15. I never tasted bamboe shoots before but I must change that soon by trying your tasty looking recipe!! Stunning pictures, dear Hannah. đŸ˜€

  16. You inspired me to check my local market for fresh bamboo shoots and I found some and made these burgers today. They’re great! These make me think that bamboo shoots would be good chunked as the “crab” in crabcakes.

    • Oh you’re right, faux crab cakes made with bamboo shoots is a brilliant idea! The texture would work out so nicely, and they’re mild enough that the flavors wouldn’t clash. I’m so glad you tried the burgers, and now I’ll have to try your suggestion in return.

  17. These cute bamboo shoots reminded me of the fresh palm hearts I used to get back in my childhood days in Mauritius. They sure were nothing like the canned version. We used to make all sorts of recipes with them and I really enjoyed the salads. But I’d never thought of making burgers out of bamboo. That’s amazing! The taste of this burger must be so unique.

  18. I used to hate these massive looking bamboo shoots, but I love using them in a variety of shapes, it can be big or thinly sliced. Love the first photo…to be honest…you’re very brave for photographing them (they arent quite attractive!) I love your Asian twist with the white beans – these bamboo burgers remind me of these vegan mushroom burgers I had at Mos Burger Taiwan – they use toasted rice as buns. I would like to try the toasted rice buns recipe to re-create that mushroom burger version! I love your writing, Hannah, have you thought about being a food writer in fictional books?! <3

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