There are many names for this food item: wild rice stem, jiao bai, Manchurian Rice plant etc. It was under the name water bamboo that I found this in the basement floor of the big department store Sogo. Thankfully these survived the trip home from Taipei AND came pretty much pre-prepared.
The wild rice stem usually has a coarse green outer layer that needs to be removed before cooking, however the good people of the supermarket in Sogo’s basement have done that already. This does mean that time was of the essence for preparing it.
I figured it would be best to keep it simple when preparing the wild rice stem, so I decided to cut it into matchsticks, blanch them and mix them with a simple soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Have to say, it really worked wonders and would make an excellent side dish.
The rice stem is light, fresh and takes on a lot of the flavour of what it was mixed with. Before mixing dressing I tried a few pieces and found it to have a sweet taste not too dissimilar to rice milk, but with a hint of nuttiness. There is also a pleasing cooling feeling when cooking this, which means this might be the first time that I found a vegetable refreshing.
To be honest, it really bums me out that this is not a vegetable that I’ll be able to experiment with. I mean, I can imagine this being a great addition to any stir-fry or cold salad. Maybe this would be cool to have in a fusion-style coleslaw with some carrot and jicama. Oh well.
So, along with the water bamboo, this is the second foodstuff that I brought back with my from Taipei. I previously brought back something that I thought was young ginger from Singapore… and turned out to be wrong. However, this was signposted as such in English – so I know this to be legit.
Compared to the ginger that I know from over her, young ginger really looks like a youthful almost Botoxed version of the root that looks similar to galangal. On the whole this is a subtler version of regular ginger, which actually means that I prefer this (to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of ginger). I used a chunk of this in a mixed rice dish and it added a lovely ginger flavour, but without the heat that really turns me off.