We just returned from a quick weekend trip to Chiba with a small group of friends. Just north of Tokyo, the prefecture is known for both farming and surfing, and we were able to taste a bit of both this weekend. (This is the same place where we met the motorcycle-vegetable-delivering-grandmother last year.)
A lazy morning with coffee on the deck while birds and butterflies filled the air around us was followed by a pleasant bike ride along the river to the village and through valleys filled with rice fields and pear orchards. Everything seems to be in fruit, flower, and leafing out like mad. The rainy season must feel like heaven for these plants, and they show their pleasure in no uncertain terms of green.
And as we biked we came across a nice handful of vegetable stands offering up their seasonal wares of edamame, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Vegetable otaku that I am I couldn't resist stopping to check each one out, and we therefore came away with quite a selection of treats for our evening festivities.
The surprise of the day, though, was takenoko. Coming to the end of it's season, a woman we met outside Ichinomiya's shrine had big, beautiful bags of the stalks. Wakatake, a slightly different variety than that that used to grow at the farm, these were smaller in circumference (about an inch or so) and about a foot long. Our hostess snapped them up and later that evening served them up as part of a fantastic round of appetizers.
Atsuko's Scrumptious Wakatake
1 kg wakatake
3 pkgs. Bonito flakes
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Dash of sake
Boil the bamboo shoots until they soften a bit. Atsuko did the roots first for a bit and then tipped the whole shoot over in the pan to ensure cooking consistency. Drain and chop into one centimeter pieces. Toss in a bowl with bonito flakes, soy sauce, and sake, and serve.