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Bamboo Updated: 2009-06-29 00:00:00 KST

What comes to mind when you hear the word "bamboo[Interview : ] "In a week the shoots grow to a length of 40 cm. This is when they are at their best to eat."

The crunchy bite, faint aroma, and tender flesh of bamboo shoots have made them a favorite ingredient for expensive dishes.

If you want to enjoy bamboo just the way it is, a good choice would be juksunhwe. In Damyang it's easy to find this dish of parboiled bamboo shoots served with freshwater snails and assorted vegetables, all seasoned with hot pepper paste.

There are other ways to cook with bamboo. One popular dish is daetongbab, or bamboo rice keg. Rice is steamed with bamboo extracts in a bowl cut from a bamboo stem. In Damyang, bamboo trees are cut down in their 2nd or 3rd year for this purpose.

All sorts of wild grain and bamboo sap mixed with the rice. This mixture creates the distinctive color and flavor of daetongbab.

Add some ginko seeds, dates and chestnuts. Now here comes the big secret. The bamboo's endodermis melts into the rice while steaming for an hour.

Traditionally the inner layer of bamboo stems was used as medicine. It's supposed to relieve fever, asthma, coughing, and diabetic symptoms.

Well the aroma is surely amazing. Get some of that juksunhwe as a side dish, and you have a perfect meal.

So when did people start consuming bamboo[Interview : Shim Yeong-sun, Food artist
] "There's not a single part to waste when it comes to bamboo. The leaves, the stem, the shoots. According to records they started trying to eat all these parts during the Goryeo dynasty. They liked the soft and savory taste. By the Joseon dynasty, bamboo
made its way onto the king's plate."

There are endless ways to use bamboo in food. This restaurant is famous for its signature bamboo dish. Even foreigners come here.

[Interview : Sri Lanka
] "I first tried this after coming to Korea. The wood bowl is interesting and the aroma and flavor is very good. I'm sure that any Sri Lankan would love this if they tried some."

They even have a patent for the bamboo samgyetang they serve here. First, rice porridge is prepared with assorted vegetables. Next, bamboo shoots are added with all their delicious aroma. Then the chicken is boiled in a special broth.

Here, they cut the bamboo stems across instead of lengthwise to make a bowl shaped like a ship.

Jade pebbles are laid out on the bottom, the porridge comes next and then the chicken goes on top of that.

Samgyetang, a popular summer health food, finally meets bamboo. The delicate scent of bamboo combines with the rich aroma of chicken to make a unique and nutritious meal.

[Interview : Shim Yeong-sun, Food artist
] "It has 50 times more vitamin A than cabbages. It's great for calming the mind
and good for your liver. Especially good for people with high blood pressure or those suffering from difficulties urinating."

According to the old texts, bamboo leaves can be used to bring down fever. A good way of ingesting bamboo leaves is by drinking bamboo tea.

[Interview : ] "We pluck leaves from the new shoots every year and make tea."

Only the fresh young leaves are plucked. Then they are cleaned and roasted in the same manner as any other tea.

Just the right amount of heat eliminates the grassy smell and preserves the distinctive green hue and scent of bamboo.

With no caffeine, low calories and high dietary fiber content, bamboo tea is gaining popularity as a health tea.

The first cup fills your mouth with a fresh aroma. While the last leaves a rich and nutty taste.

The beautiful golden tea is mild to the tongue, perfect for people who haven't tried a lot of tea. And with zero caffeine, you never need to worry about drinking too much bamboo tea. Bamboo tea is indeed the easiest way to enjoy the elegant scent of bamboo without going to a bamboo forest. Bamboo tea has already found a strong following among health minded Europeans.

[Interview : ] "This April we even exported tea to Italy, Germany and Denmark. Bamboo tea has no caffeine. I think that's what the customers abroad like about it."

So, the world loves to drink Korean bamboo tea. Will they take the next step and start chewing on bamboo[Interview : Shim Yeong-sun, Food artist
] "By now the whole world has begun to realize that Korean food is great for your health. Bamboo has great nutritional properties. You just need to add a little creativity
to come up with the right dish that will be loved by billions around the world."

From shoots to stems to leaves, Koreans have put the whole bamboo tree on the dining table. As well as delighting the senses with its exquisite aroma, bamboo is a healthy addition to anyone's diet. Next time you visit Korea, why don't you try some bamboo
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