As expected, these are the very young shoots of many types of bamboo. They must be thoroughly cooked before use because most will contain elements poisonous to human beings. Widely used throughout Asia, from Myanmar to Nepal and, of course, China.
Once cooked or canned, the flavour varies according to the variety used, but is generally very mild and undistinguished. Thus bamboo shoots are used mainly for texture and general interest, something common in Asian cuisines.
Canned bamboo shoots are commonly found in Asian supermarkets and in larger supermarkets.
Choose the best
There’s not much choice but for most Western uses, choose bamboo shoots in water or salted water, rather than in vinegar or anything else acidic.
Once the can is opened, treat as any other cooked vegetables and keep covered and chilled, when bamboo shoots will have a shelf life of well over a week.
Bamboo shoots are best thought of as a bulking agent, used to add interest and texture to anything from stews and stir-fries to soups.