Bamboo shoots, or more commonly known as ‘those crunchy things in my stir fry’, are a very overlooked ingredient when it comes to nutritional health values. Harvested when certain species of the Bamboo family are young, the shoots have been used to give additional flavour and texture to dishes since the days of the Tang Dynasty, back in the 7th century. But let's go even further back, back to the days of the dinosaurs, and back a little bit more...
The Origin of Bamboo
When our planet was just a mess of land and water, with sea and land animals not yet in existence, plant life ruled the supercontinents. Thousands upon thousands of square miles of jungle dominated the Earth, with giant trees towering above the ground, and vines as thick as cars covering the floor bed. Most of which, other than the odd huge tree in Canada, is now extinct or has become smaller due to environmental changes. Except for one. Now considered as a tree, Bamboo is actually a prehistoric form of giant grass! The supercontinent known as 'Gondwana' hosted fields of the stuff, and as the supercontinent split with tectonic movement to become that of Asia, Africa and Australia, Bamboo was actually carried off to all three. Asia, however, was the only continent to have the right environmental conditions to keep it thriving.
History lesson aside, Bamboo is one of the most useful natural substances known to man, with its strong but flexible tendencies once fully matured, its structural uses know no bounds. From furniture to buildings, to bikes, to instruments, the list goes on, and ends with food. When a new plant is grown, the seed will divide into multiple shoots, and at this point is harvested for food and medicines.
Health Benefits of Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo shoots could be likened to a superior version of a potato. Nutritionally they're packed full of vitamins, Iron, Calcium and Potassium, and have all sorts of health benefits that are associated, but their true super power is their ability to fill you up when eaten, do some good, but often have fewer calories than it takes to actually digest them.
This makes them ridiculously ideal for weight loss, but for the individual who still wants to eat good food. The shoots can easily be utilised as a substitute for potatoes and any other food group that is normally used as the 'stodge' for your meal, and where as they do have a lovely, nutty, sweet but salty taste of their own, they will happily take on the flavourings of the surrounding food. Another food with similar characteristics is the famed superfood celery, full of fibre, low in calories, full of vitamins, but has a taste that can often be treated as marmite - people love it, or they hate it. Bamboo shoots are an incredibly subtle flavour, and are delicious even to the pickiest of palettes.
“After spending 10 years living in Japan I’ve actually had the personal experience of foraging for young bamboo shoots and making fresh broth and a variety of traditional dishes. The exceptional nutritional content of bamboo shoots is renowned for a low calorie, easily digested and vitamin and mineral rich vegetable. Naturally high in fibre, which is great for keeping the digestive system in working order. It also decreases bad cholesterol (LDL). High fibre diets can also help cut down incidences of colorectal cancer. Bamboo shoots are high in mood elevating B-vitamins which makes the Team here at Mr Lee’s Noodles very happy in more ways than one!” - Barbara Cox, Head of Nutrition at Mr Lee's Pure Foods.
There are also studies that would suggest Bamboo shoots are effective at reducing blood pressure and other heart-related conditions, due to their high mineral content. This in turn with it's high fibre content can significantly reduce cholesterol, and make big changes to the body's immune system, with its high content of vitamin C.
Though not as well proven, it's also believed that Bamboo shoots have very potent anti-venomous properties. The ancient science of health 'Ayurveda', stemming from India, records bamboo shoots to be effective against both scorpion and snake bites, returning the blood to it's normal state after being poisoned. Just to make things clear, we're not saying tipping a cup of Mr Lee's noodles on your leg when bitten by a King Cobra is the best course of action, but thought it was an interesting fact about this unsung hero.
So hopefully you've already got a few ideas of how you could implement Bamboo shoots into your daily meals, it's super easy to prepare as just needs boiling when bought in a pealed form, and will give a nice crisp texture to your food. As well as completely replacing less healthy foods such as potato and pastas, the shoots can be great to add to existing foods such as noodles to add an extra dimension to flavour, texture and nutritional value, and - guess what?!
...That's exactly what we've done with our Dragon Fire Vegetables and Warrior Fighting Shrimp noodles! Both flavours use the ingredient in very different ways when it comes to flavour and texture, but gain all the same health benefits. So next time you tuck into some of our tasty, healthy noodles, make sure to remember you're chomping down on the grass of the giants.