Eat To Live

It takes skill to cook dish with few items

Bamboo Rice.

Quality of produce, seasoning and garnish are important to deliver taste and texture

Nothing puts me off more than a long list of ingredients in a recipe. And if the food is all cooked in one pot, better still.

But cooking with just a few ingredients demands skill. To deliver taste and texture, the quality of produce is as important as the timing, seasoning and garnish.

This recipe relies on choice bamboo shoots, so I usually cook it after Chinese New Year, when fresh bamboo abounds in the market. You can get vacuum-packed bamboo shoots all year round, but nothing beats the fragrance of a fresh shoot.

For this dish, you can also use water bamboo shoots, which are actually a kind of wild rice. They are also known as wild oats. You cook them in the husk and peel them to reveal sweet, crunchy flesh.



    2 cups brown rice, washed and drained

    2 fresh bamboo shoots, peeled and boiled

    2 cups dashi

    1 tsp light soya sauce

    1 tsp mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)

    1 Tbs sake

    Salt and white pepper to taste


    1. Peel bamboo shoots and blanch in a pot of water. Cool and cut into slivers. Set aside.

    2. Place rice in rice cooker.

    Add dashi, soya sauce, sake, mirin, salt and pepper.

    3. Top the rice with bamboo shoots.

    4. Cook till done. Stir well, dish out and garnish with chopped spring onion and strips of nori seaweed.

    5. Serve with a clear chicken soup and some pickles.


Many cultures have their version of bamboo rice. I like the Japanese version, which uses fresh shoots and is eaten only in spring.

Whichever shoot you use, you need to trim and boil it before adding it to the pot.

I serve bamboo rice with a clear consomme - usually chicken soup, skimmed of fat and scum, and flavoured with rice wine and white pepper - and some Japanese pickles on the side.

I use brown rice for its nutty flavour and cook it in dashi (available in packets or make your own by boiling a small piece of kombu seaweed with dried bonito flakes in two cups of water) with the shoots.

I add nori seaweed strips and chopped spring onion before serving. You can also add tau pok, fresh soya beans or mushrooms.

I cook the rice in a rice cooker, instead of a clay pot, for convenience.

Despite its simple components, there is much to recommend in this dish. There is a lot of fibre from the brown rice and the shoots. It does not have cholesterol or saturated fat. And you can jazz it up with red chilli or chilli flakes.

Use fresh bamboo shoots instead of preserved ones

Bamboo shoots and brown rice are good sources of dietary fibre.

Dietary fibre helps to promote bowel movement and reduce cholesterol levels. It also helps with weight management.

Use fresh bamboo shoots as preserved ones may have a very high sodium content.

As the recommended daily sodium intake is 2,000mg, this dish has a relatively high sodium content. It comes mainly from the dashi (bonito flakes are high in sodium) and light soya sauce.

Instead of adding salt, use dried or fresh mushrooms to enhance the flavour. You can also add tofu or lean chicken meat to make it a more complete meal.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (about 440g per serving)

Energy: 385kcal

Protein: 12g

Total fat: 3g

Saturated fat: 0.5g

Dietary fibre: 3.4g

Carbohydrate: 76.5g

Sodium: 1,000mg

Fiona Chia

Director of Health Can Be Fun, a nutrition consultancy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'It takes skill to cook dish with few items'. Print Edition | Subscribe