My Citizens – the Japanese aesthetic is truly one to be admired, with its emphasis on purity of form, color and purpose as well as a laser-focus on seasonality that the world would do well to emulate, IMHO! I have been a huge fan of Japanese culture since I was a teenager, and I’m not talking about anime here (though I am appreciative of the genre). Bamboo in Japan, as in the rest of Asia, is revered as both a medium for construction as well as eating and this recipe is a personal favorite of mine!
As to the Japanese – whether it’s their renowned discipline, their striving for utmost perfection in a single moment, or reveling in the sheer IMPERFECTION of something, their outlook is both dichotomous AND wonderful. There is a poetry in the Japanese soul that I can only hope to emulate – though I have immodestly achieved some honor as perhaps the greatest haiku poet writing in English in the classic 5-7-5 style! If you’re interested, you can download my beautifully illustrated (in the sumi-e fashion) ebook for only .99 here – I think you will enjoy it immensely!
Now, as to that gorgeous and enviable food aesthetic – as eruditely noted on culinaryhistoriansny.org:
The Japanese art of presenting food, moritsuke, was the subject of Elizabeth Andoh’s lavishly-illustrated presentation at the serene Globus washitsu. American-born Andoh has made Japan her home for more than 50 years and is a leading authority on Japanese culinary culture. She approached moritsuke by identifying three elements that govern the aesthetics of the traditional Japanese meal: (1) the choice of foods to serve, (2) the dinnerware in which the food is served, and (3) the exacting placement of each piece of dinnerware in front of the diner.
In the traditional practice of moritsuke, each component of a meal is served in its separate vessel (or carefully grouped in distinct areas in a larger vessel), with consideration given to the color, shape, seasonality, materials and textures of both foods and their serveware.
Each plate is chosen for its ability to make the food more attractive and easier to eat. A long narrow platter pleasingly accentuates a plank of fish, and rounded bowls or curved plates can best highlight and soften linear items such as strips of vegetables and skewers of food. Diminutive bowls of condiments and side dishes are arrayed around the main meal components.
As in the U.S., the seasons inspire certain foods and dishes in Japan. Fall, they say, is the most delicious time of the year when the most desirable ingredients – mushrooms and daikon radish – are at their prime. Pine, bamboo, plum (the three friends of winter) are popular motifs that help create a sense of time and place and food is often carved or arranged in their likeness, especially in platters prepared for New Year’s celebrations. Carrots, too, are regularly fashioned into seasonal motifs such as the maple leaf in fall and the cherry blossom in spring.
This particular bamboo shoots recipe is poetically known in Japanese as ‘sprouting trees’ and is actually one of the most evocative in the moritsuke tradition, as any native Japanese would recognize the symbology of the ingredients, seasonality and presentation. Bamboo shoots are universally recognized in Japan as an ingredient of Spring, and the bright green Kinome (aka Sansho) leaves mixed into the dressing drive that point home, as well as adding a minty note that awakens the palate.
By mounding up the boiled bamboo shoots, it appears poetically to be a mountain covered in vegetation and the kinome sprig (and a few kinome buds mixed into the dressing) adds a true feeling of life as well as a bit of spicy zing (kinome is closely related to Sichuan peppercorn, after all!). Some white miso in the dressing adds a distinctive touch of Japanese flavor and umami as well – while I am rarely fond of vegetables, this dish works for Me on every possible level!
Now, to make this properly – get yourself some fresh bamboo shoots, if you can – if not, the kind sold in open tubs (and sometimes prepackaged in styrofoam) in Asian markets work quite well indeed. You can also use canned whole bamboo shoots, if that is all you have access to.
Use top-quality white miso, and while very hard to find in the United States, you can find kinome sprigs here and fresh kinome berries here. Lastly, use the best-quality japanese dashi stock you can find, as the bamboo shoots have no strong flavor of their own – I am very partial to this one. You also REALLY want to use only Japanese mayo for this dish, it has a deliciously rich flavor and you can buy it here.
Citizens, I have every confidence you will very much enjoy this delightful bamboo shoot appetizer – perhaps as part of a multi-course elegant dinner featuring this cold noodle dish evocative of Summer! 😀
Battle on – the Generalissimo
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