Steamed Rice with Bamboo Shoots (Takenoko Gohan)

This seems to be the most ubiquitous way the Japanese use fresh bamboo shoots. The recipe is adapted from Chef Naoko Bento Cafe in Portland, Ore., and from Elizabeth Andoh's more meticulous approach. Andoh first briefly simmers the shoots in kelp stock (see below) with mirin and light soy sauce before steaming them and the rice in that reserved broth. The shoots remain crisp while subtly perfuming the rice. My leftovers made a delicious base for fried rice the next day, stir-fried with spring greens, leeks, fried egg and tofu.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups Japanese-style short-grain white rice

2 cups water

2 teaspoons cooking sake or mirin (Japanese rice wines)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 pound boiled bamboo shoots, preferably from the center or tip section, thinly sliced into half-moons (cut lengthwise to look like little combs with teeth)

2 ounces dried kelp seaweed (kombu)*

10 to 12 sprigs fresh sansho leaves (from the prickly ash plant called ki no me) or 1/4 teaspoon kona-zansho (from that plant's ground pepper berries) mixed with a pinch of salt*

2 tablespoons chopped fresh arugula or other green herb, for garnish

*Available at Asian or specialty markets.

Put raw rice kernels in large bowl and cover with cold water. Swish the rice vigorously, until the water clouds with starch. Drain washed rice in fine-mesh strainer and return to bowl to repeat procedure with fresh cold water. Continue for three or four washings, until the water becomes clear.

Place the washed and drained rice in a three-quart lidded pot or rice cooker. Add water, sake, soy sauce and sea salt and let sit for 10 minutes before cooking, to ensure tender grains. Then place sliced bamboo shoots and dried kelp on top. Switch rice cooker on, or cover pot, place over high heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid begins to bubble. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady but not-too-vigorous boil and continue to cook, covered, for about 5 minutes longer, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove pot from the heat and allow the rice to steam with retained heat for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove kelp, mix the rice carefully with a paddle-like spoon to distribute the bamboo shoots and serve. Garnish individual portions with fresh sansho leaves (from the prickly ash plant called ki no me) or with the plant's ground pepper berries (known as kona-zansho). Or accent with chopped fresh arugula or other green spring herb. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit