Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bamboo Shoots, Potatoes, and Black-Eyed Peas Medley (Taamaa-Alu-Bodi ko Tarkaari)

Try something new today with the edible shoots of bamboo plants, one of the most common ingredients in Asian cooking. 

Taamaa-Alu-Bodi ko Tarkaari
तामा-आलु-बोडी को तर्कारी
 Explore the most traditional Nepali flavors!
Bamboo shoots are ready for harvest
Bamboo shoots are the underdeveloped, young, edible shoots of the bamboo plant known as Taama (तामा) in Nepali.  They have a unique flavor and texture, are considered a delicacy in traditional Nepali cuisine and are a favorite wild vegetable for many. The young and tender shoots are mild-flavored and mix well with most ingredients. In fact, the shoots can be pickled, fermented, dried, or cooked with any combination of vegetables and other ingredients.  The fermented bamboo shoots are made into a popular stew-like dish combined with black-eyed peas, potatoes and several other herbs and spices and the Nepalese call this medley, taamaa-alu-bodi ko tarkaari (तामा-आलु-बोडी). The savory dish has an exotic bamboo flavor dominating the whole dish and usually accompanied with freshly boiled rice as a part of everyday Nepali traditional meal of Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari meal. To make fermented bamboo, the fresh bamboo shoots are sliced into thin pieces, mixed with salt, mustard seeds, turmeric, and mustard oil, and cured in the sun until they become slightly sour and flavorful.

Cone shaped bamboo shoots with brown husks
There are many varieties of bamboo plants growing throughout Nepal, but not all of them are edible shoots.  Mr. P. Regmi in his book, "the Introduction of Nepalese Food Plants" under the section of "tender shoot vegetables" gives the scientific name; Bambusa vulgaris Schrad, Family: Gramineae and the common name is Feathery Bamboo or taamaa bans (तामा बाँस).  He writes, "These are armed or unarmed, erect or scan dent, tall growing, tufted and woody plants.  They are very commonly distributed in various species throughout Terai, inner Tarai and temperate regions of Nepal.  The younger tender sprouting buds or shoots can either be eaten raw or mostly utilized to prepare "taamaa: by special process of natural fermentation.  Taamaa constitutes the typically favorite vegetable food for most of the Nepalese particularly those living in the hilly area.  It is eaten fresh in succulent condition or in dried form which can be preserved for a long time".

Harvesting Bamboo shoots and peeling away sheath covering: the young and tender sprouting buds or shoots are dug out in the spring from the surface of the soil growing next to the bamboo plants. They are cylindrical in shape and are covered with numerous layers of brown husks.  Before the shoots are used, the outermost woody brown sheaths are removed one by one until the edible and tender layers are exposed. The edible portions are ivory to light-yellow in color.  The woody outer base is is also trimmed off before using.  Now the bamboo shoots are ready to be sliced, cooked or preserved for later use. By the time the brown shoots are trimmed and cleaned,  the original size of the shoot becomes much smaller.

Nepali vegetable vendor selling freshly sliced bamboo shoots in the local markets

Here is my recipe for making a delicious "Bamboo Shoots, Potatoes, and Black-Eyed Peas Medley" - it has simple ingredients and quick preparation.   The authentic flavor of the dish comes from the selection of bamboo shoots you use. Some people prefer fresh taamaa to cook with, but some like fermented taamaa.  No matter what your preference is make sure to enjoy one of the most traditional wild vegetable Nepalese have been eating for centuries.

For this recipe, you may substitute packaged bamboo shoots, which are readily available in many forms (fresh, canned, bottled, packed in brine, vacuum-packed in plastic) at Asian markets.

1/2 cup dried black-eyed peas (bodi)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch-thick
2 fresh hot green chilies, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds, finely ground
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Salt to taste 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 small red or green bell pepper, cored and diced (about 1 cup)
2 cups (bottled or canned) bamboo shoots, well rinsed, drained, and cut into bite-sized pieces 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Sort and soak the black-eyed peas overnight, and drain.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the fenugreek seeds, and fry until dark brown and lightly fragrant, about 5 seconds.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and turmeric, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the drained black-eyed peas and cook for 10 minutes.  Mix in the potatoes, green chilies, mustard, ginger, salt, and cayenne pepper and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in the tomatoes and bell pepper and continue cooking until the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to high, add 3 cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil for 7 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring from time to time until the black-eyed peas and potatoes are tender and sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.  Add the bamboo shoots and cook for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  If you prefer a thinner sauce, add some water and boil further.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cilantro and lemon juice.  Serve hot.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

...cooking taamaa-alu-bodi
Perfect bowl of taamaa-alu-bodi to accompany the main meal of Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari!
Simple everyday Nepali meal served with bamboo shoots curry
Inviting friends and family and serving Nepali food buffet style for a huge crowd.  A large container of bamboo shoots dish in the front of the table.
Close-up picture of bamboo shoots - still needs to add cilantro -  chopped fresh cilantro adds freshness and color to this savory taamaa dish.
These tasty pickled bamboo shoots are for sale at a Nepali markets; they are a popular hard-to-resist condiment.....

Fermented bamboo shoots in a bottle  - richly flavored with pickling spices such as ground mustard seeds, salt,  ground turmeric, chili powder and mustard oil.
Several bottles of savory, fermented bamboo shoots coated with ground turmeric for sale near Malekhu Bazaar, Nepal.  All you need to do is buy and start making your favorite bamboo dish.
Dried bamboo shoots are readily available in Nepali markets and will last indefinitely.  They need to be soaked to rehydrate before cooking.
Close-up picture of dried bamboo shoots