Best of BBtv: Cooking Young Bamboo Shoots with Joi Ito (score by Ryuichi Sakamoto)

The Boing Boing tv crew is taking this end-of-summer week off from production, so we're revisiting some of our favorite episodes from the last couple of months -- fun stuff you may have missed. Today, one of my personal all-time favorites: takenoko (竹の子), young bamboo shoots, with Joi Ito and original music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. -- XJ

You may know Joi as a serial entrepreneur, a twittering globetrotter VC, a World of Warcraft junkie, or the CEO of Creative Commons, but he has a more traditional side, too.

In this video, Ito welcomes us into his back yard in Japan, where he and his partner Mizuka teach us how to hunt for and prepare this traditional seasonal delicacy from a lush bamboo forest.

The episode is accompanied by an original score composed by Grammy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe-winning composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto. The legendary electronic music pioneer is also an outspoken environmental advocate. His recent reforestation initiative, “More Trees,” supports the planting of trees around the world to help offset carbon emissions. To-date, 2 billion trees have been planted mostly through work with country governments including Turkey, Ethiopia and Mexico. Link to English-language PDF with more info on the project.

Sakamoto co-founded the seminal synthpop trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, and has scored or contributed to movie soundtracks including The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence, Babel, and the work of director Pedro Almodóvar. Boing Boing tv thanks him for generously contributing this beautiful, evocative score.

After the jump -- Joi Ito's family recipe for yummy takenoko just like mom used to make. Special thanks to the Ito family for sharing their traditions with us.

Here's Joi's blog post about his background with Ryuichi, and here's Joi's post from today about how this video came together.

RECIPE: TAKENOKO (Young Bamboo Shoots)
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How to slice:

Cut tip of takenoko at an angle. Cut vertical to down middle to front.

"Akunuki" process to remove bitter taste:

In a large boiling pot add:

* Dried Chili X 3
* Rice "Nuka" husks 2 handfuls

Cold water 2 liters
Add takenoko with the cuts and husks. Full heat from water for approximately 20-40 min (until you can stick a chopstick into the takenoko). Lower heat as it comes to a boil. After completed, cut heat and leave over night.

The next day, remove husks and cut to smaller pieces and boil for 10 min.

Making "Wakatakeni":

Make 2 cups stock from "Kobu" (seaweed) and "Katsuo" (Bonito flakes). Add Thin Soy Sauce - 3 table spoon, Sugar - table spoon, Sake - 2 table spoon. Add takenoko and boil for 8 min. Add "Wakame" (seaweed) and boil for additional 2 min.

Top with "Kinome" (Japanese herb) and eat as it is OR

Make Takenoko rice:

Make stewed Takenoko above but use "Oage" (dried tofu) instead of "Wakame". Take the sauce from Wakatakeni" and add as flavor to rice in a rice cooker and prepare rice normally. After rice is done, add the stewed takenoko and oage and mix. Enjoy.

Note: "cups" are Japanese size cups which are 200ml or 200cc.


  1. Just a warning to anyone cooking fresh bamboo shoots. Don’t try them until they’ve been in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Raw bamboo shoots contain a toxin called cyanogenic glycosides.

    Cyanide poisoning can really put a damper on your day.

  2. Yeah, that’s the “bitter taste” I was talking about. ;-)

    According to what I’ve read, the exposure to air causes increased “aku” which I am assuming is cyanogenic glycosides. Some bamboo shoots are actually eaten raw and don’t taste bitter. The ones behind our house definitely require at least 20 min of boiling and actually taste better after being left in a vat of water overnight.

    I would be curious whether the cyanogenic glycosides is actually the same as “aku” and the weird bitter taste of under-prepared bamoboo shoots or whether it is something else that’s causing the taste.

    In any event, under-cooked bamboo shoots don’t taste very edible and if they’re soft and sweet enough to eat, I’m pretty sure you’re safe. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from cyanogenic glycosides in bamboo shoots myself.

  3. Cool video. And some intense music. I’d like to see a series of cooking shows scored by avant garde musicians. Gordon Ramsay makes canapes with Tan Dun, Rachel Ray bakes zitti with Philip Glass, that kind of thing.

  4. Hi everybody,

    Message to Xeni J. … funny how I didn’t recognize the word Jardin pronounced the american way. In my native French courntyside, we pronounce it really differently, like in “Jardin à la française”…

    Regarding dangerous cooking, here is an experiment of the cooking lab, trying to do “les oeufs en meurette”, supposedly very tasty, but slightly tasteless out of the Cooking Lab.

    Warning: do not try this at home!


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