Eats bamboo shoots, leaves
Bamboo shoots. Well, can’t be that bad I wondered as I trooped into Dilli Haat with a friend. She had sworn by the pork curry from the Nagaland food stall and I was dying to try it. This, mind you, was well before my ‘I-can-and-will-pretty-much-eat-anything’ days.
The steaming bowl of red pork curry in bamboo shoot came to us with Nagaland rice and a special chutney I can still give an arm and leg for. But the curry pretty much had me reaching for the water bottle pronto. I could not handle the spices nor could I handle the characteristic pungent smell of the bamboo shoot. I just wasn’t ready for such heady smells.
My next tryst with bamboo shoots came in the form of pickles some girls decided to open up one day in the hostel in JNU. Needless to say the whole wing was smelling of that for days. Sigh.
But the more I got myself to try curries or bamboo shoot preparations over and over again, the more I got used to it and started loving it. The smell of this particular vegetable, if I may call it so, is not for the regular Indian palate. Just as any north Indian will cringe at the pungency of mustard oil in Bengali food, one would react pretty much the same way (if not worse) to bamboo shoots. However, having said so, for any foodie, bamboo shoots are a must try. The pungency lends a delectable flavour to the food it is prepared with and goes wonderfully with heavy spices like the trademark Raja Mirchi from the North East.
Bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts are the edible shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of many bamboo species including Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis (that is Wikipedia information for you) and are an intricate part of Asian cuisine.
One of our favourite eating spots in South Delhi, Nagaland’s Kitchen in the Uphaar Cinema complex in Green Park, recently hosted a Bamboo Shoot Festival. They are the same guys who run the Nagaland food stall in Dilli Haat.
With dishes prepared with authentic fermented bamboo shoots, the festival kick started on 3 July and all the convincing we needed was to make time for it. We were told that not only are bamboo shoots absolutely delicious but are also rich in nutrients and rank among the five most popular healthcare foods in the world! So here’s one great reason why health freaks might be convinced to try it!
We started off with Dry Chicken and bamboo shoot and fried bamboo shoot with chillies. The considerably bland bamboo shoot went excellently with the chillies and the saltiness of the dry chicken.
We ventured into the main course with our favourite pork curry with bamboo shoot and an array of special chutneys that included a prawn chutney and a dry fish chutney. We of course could not have a meal without their famous Raja Mirchi chutney so that came along as well.
For the festival the restaurant has Bamboo shoot chilly, Smoked pork with dry bamboo shoot salad, Pork Bamboo Shoot Gravy, Chicken Bamboo Shoot with Naga Ginger, Fish Bamboo Shoot and the Bamboo shoot chutney - so take your pick.
Ask for the Naga rice to go with the main dishes because it will not go with noodles or fried rice and also the rich flavours of the chutneys are best experienced with plain steamed rice.
If you want to, by any odd chance, steer clear off the bamboo shoots, try the Pork (or chicken) Anishi - which is basically a curry made from fermented yam leaves and has a perfectly delectable flavour of its own. Nagaland’s Kitchen also has a great mushroom stir friend with bamboo shoots and some very good momos. Stay away from the Raja Mirchi dishes if you cannot handle the chillies - Raja Mirchi is not for the faint hearted.
A meal for two comes to about Rs 1500 (without taxes and alcohol) at Nagaland’s Kitchen which is very good considering the authentic fare they whip up. If you haven’t visited these guys yet - you are missing something!