Bamboo is one ingredient readily available in China, and thanks to China’s ‘panda fame’, it’s almost a kind of symbol of Chinese cuisine. In the UK, when I was growing up, Chinese takeaways were hugely popular. As a child, I was familiar with bamboo shoots as being those perfectly rectangular bland and slightly crunchy white vegetables that featured in a number of stir-fry Chinese takeaway dishes. Of course, this is English-style Chinese food using those tinned low-quality bamboo shoots. The ingredients in China are much fresher and much more delicious.
Bamboo shoots are tough and course in texture, quite like globe artichokes, but I like to tear through this kind of food with my hands and teeth. This side dish is not everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. Bamboo in China is often heavily fermented with a kind of rice wine and salt, very tasty! You can buy them fresh in the average supermarket too. I just like to roast them Italian-style, as I would fennel and potatoes. Bamboo shoots, nutritionally, are not particularly dense. Quite like konyak (see my recipe Konyak Noodles, King Oyster Mushroom & Leafy Greens Broth), they are very low in calories and therefore boost the volume of a dish without adding calories, sodium or fat.
Artichokes, however, are bursting with goodness. Artichoke leaf extract is now a popular supplement, sought after in many health food stores for aiding in weight loss and soothing irritable bowel syndrome. I am not sure if the extracts actually work of that, I find reishi (the Chinese root ganoderma lucidum) to be very effective for that.
My relatives in Southern Italy make a artichoke liqueur, Amaro, as a digestivo to be consumed after a large meal. It’s delicious and very bitter which I like, and it does seem to work in aiding digestion in my experience. Artichokes are considered medicinal in many parts of the world, as a digestive in Italy and France, for weight loss as a herbal tea in Vietnam, Indonesia and China. A number of scientific studies have also confirmed that the artichoke does in fact aid digestion, liver function and gallbladder function as it contains the bioactive agents apigenin and luteolin. It can also increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) like many other hearty green vegetables.
As a member of the thistle family, they have a rough spike texture, and involve a lot of effort to eat, if they are whole. That’s part of the enjoyment for me, but it is probably the reason why marinated artichoke hearts are more popular than the fresh ones. Though artichokes are not at all a common food in China (my Chinese friends seem to have no idea what they are), China, alongside many other countries, does actually produce artichokes in some provinces.
And finally, the black garlic, so rich and sweet, is a common ingredient in China, as well as South Korea. It is a type of caramelised garlic, made by heating whole garlic bulbs for several weeks, which results in black garlic cloves. They are soft and sweet, with notes of sweet balsamic vinegar. Many have dubbed black garlic a health food, though it can be used quite easily to make a puree as it is soft and smooth in texture. There are many claims that back garlic is much healthier as it’s nutritional properties (improving blood circulation, boosting immunity etc.) are higher because back garlic is easier for the body to process. There is however, no concrete evidence to support these claims. In this recipe, I decided to mince it and add it to the vegetables before roasting.
Though I often say that olive oil should not be cooked but rather consumed raw out of respect for it’s nutritional properties, roasted artichokes reminds me of my Italian roots, so I can’t imagine cooking this dish with coconut oil. If you are concerned about cooking olive oil, substitute for coconut oil or ghee. You could also only add a dash of olive oil to the baking tray, and then add the remainder of the oil raw, just before serving.
This is very simple and as I said, not everyone’s cup of tea, my partner didn’t enjoy this dish at all! Serves 2 as a side dish.
Fresh bamboo, 4-5 stalk
Fresh globe artichokes, 4-5
Black garlic, 4-5 cloves
Extra-virgin olive oil, a drizzle
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
20 minutes (soaking) + 25 minutes (roasting)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Slice both the bamboo and artichokes lengthways.
3. Soak them in water in a little sea salt and lemon juice to prevent discolouration and to soften there tough texture. Soak for about 20 minutes and then strain and set aside.
4. Drizzle olive oil onto a baking tray and season the tray (so that the bottom of the vegetables in also seasoned).
5. Place the bamboo and artichoke halves face upwards on the baking tray and season the top of the vegetables.
6. Mince the black garlic (the consistency is very soft), and scatter on top of the vegetables before roasting in the oven for up to 25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
7. Serve with slices of lemons as a side dish.