Bitter bamboo shoots - a must-try specialty in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh

Hoa Binh bamboo shoot is a kind of bamboo shoot that has a bitter taste, but it is used to make the delicious dishes. This is a favorite of many people as one ofMai Chau’s specialties in the Northwest forest.

A gift of the natural forest

Bitter bamboo shoots are the seedlings of bamboo, cane, etc, growing in the deep forest. When the new one sprouts only 1-2 finger length and the rest lie under the ground, Hoa Binh people start to collect to sell. Bitter bamboo shoots in Mai Chau tend to have a bit of sweetness, but when it rains, they turn to a characteristic bitterness.

The natural specialty of the Northwest forest (taybactoancanh.com)

Bitter bamboo shoots can be processed into many different dishes such as stir-fry dish, fish soup, sour soup. They are favorite foods of Hoa Binh people as well as many tourists who have tasted even once. Peeling to see the white and soft shoot body, people can feel a bitter taste, but there is a bittersweet flavor. This is the food seducing people and making them cannot forget.

Dishes made from bitter bamboo shoots

The attraction of bitter bamboo shoots is that once a person eats them, they will want to eat more. Enjoying bitter bamboo shoots is not only about eating but also about the food culture which will make you crave and feel like you’re missing something as the Southern people like to eat chili peppers.

Boiled bamboo shoots

The simple but still attractive dish (kienthucdulich.vn)

Boiling is the most popular that is associated with the poverty, the lack of oil on the old days, and it is also convenient. Bitter bamboo shoots brought from the forest should be peeled, sliced into smaller pieces, briefly boiled, drenched with a bit of salt, and soaked in cold water, so it can be processed from now. Just like “mang le” - a kind of bamboo shoots in the Highlands or other other kinds, boiled bamboo shoots with salt and pepper are extremely delicious. The unique bitterness of the bamboo shoots together with the spicy and salty taste of the pepper salt will bring a very different taste, making all people enjoy to try.

Grilled bamboo shoots

The tasty grilled bamboo shoot after peeling (youtube.com)

Nevertheless, people here and tourists like to enjoy grilled bamboo shoots with “cham cheo” sauce (including peppers, ginger, “mac khen” seeds, garlic leaves, and garlic) - a must-try dish in Mai Chau. There is only one type of bamboo shoots that the Muong people choose to grill, this is bamboo shoots taken from “danh hanh” tree. This type is not too big just as the wrist. Tasty shoots are the new one that when grilling, it expresses the bitter and sweet smell of burning bamboo shoots and the hot spicy aromas of the “cham cheo” sauce.

Bitter bamboo shoot - “ban” flower salad

“Ban” flowers - the interesting ingredient in the bitter bamboo shoot salad (nemtv.vn)

The dish is associated with the sad love story of the poor guy named Dang (or “Bitter”) with the beautiful girl named Ban. Their love was prevented, so they fled into the forest. Although, they were exhausted and died, then transformed into bitter bamboo shoots - “ban” flowers, becoming the love legendary of the Northwest. People here still say that if bitter bamboo shoots are soaked with “ban” flowers, the bitter taste will disappear, instead, it will be sweetened slightly. Bitter bamboo shoot - “ban” flower salad is a unique dish that the bitter flavor of bamboo shoots mixes with the sweet smell of flowers, leaving an unforgettable aftertaste.

Best time to try bitter bamboo shoots

Bitter bamboo shoots grow almost all year round, but the rainy season is the best time that the bamboos strongly flourish. In the Northern bustling markets, no one is unfamiliar with the stalls in which bitter bamboo shoots are displayed. Even in the path to the village, or along the roadside where visitors cross by, we can easily see bunches of bamboo shoots neatly arranged to invite buyers. Previously, around the houses of people here or in the path to the village, it is easy to see the bitter bamboo shoots planted. However, today, bitter bamboo shoots are rarer that sometimes, people have to go deeper into the forest to collect.

Spring is the sweetest season when is the best time to go to Mai Chau. At this time, the bees start to collect nectar, and the plants begin to sprout. The young and fresh bamboo shoots reach out of the soil with the others. That is when the bamboo shoots start to turn bitter. According to people who have experience of bitter bamboo shoots, at the beginning of the season, its taste is a mix between the sweet and bitter flavors, but during days of lightning, rain, and thunder, the bitter bamboo shoots will turn into bitterness very quickly. The bitterness gradually increased as the layers shifting from white to green. That is the true bitter bamboo shoots.

With a Mai Chau trekking tour, visitors will enjoy the delicious dishes made from bitter bamboo shoots, feel the bitter taste that brings extremely strange feelings. Tourists will always remember the flavor of Mai Chau bamboo shoots which are both strange and familiar specialties of the Northwest forest. Please like and share with others if it is helpful for you. Thank you.