Menma bamboo shoots seasoned in soy sauce and sesame oil. This classic Japanese ingredient is the perfect topping for homemade ramen or simply as a healthy snack.
Ever wondered what the bamboo shoots in ramen are? Let me introduce you to menma.
Menma is a Japanese condiment typically served on top of ramen or as a simple side dish. It’s made of fermented bamboo shoots and can be purchased either dried or canned. While simple in flavor, menma is slightly sweet and is a great addition to richly flavored foods, while its chewy texture adds complexity to any dish it’s served alongside.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a Japanese cuisine expert, you can easily elevate even a basic bowl of instant ramen with this simple and authentic addition.
Discover how to incorporate tender bamboo shoots into your next Asian dinner, plus tips for making a perfect bowl of ramen.
Menma, or shinachiku (“Chinese bamboo”), is a traditional Japanese condiment made up of tender bamboo shoots fermented in lactate. Once fermented, it is either canned in water or dried.
You can expect to find bamboo shoots served atop traditional noodle dishes such as ramen, or as a side dish with other Japanese pickled vegetables.
To prepare menma, it first must be rehydrated (if dried) and then cooked in a warm broth. You can make dashi, or a Japanese broth consisting of kombu seaweed and bonito flakes, but for this recipe, we will simmer our menma in a sweet-and-savory sauce.
Our sauce will be composed of mirin, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and bonito flakes. Once you have sufficiently simmered your menma in the liquid of your choice, it can then be served however you like.
The Ingredients Explained
For this recipe, we will be making a savory-sweet sauce that will be absorbed by our bamboo shoots during the cooking process. Here’s a quick breakdown of our ingredients:
- Sliced bamboo shoots: Either canned or dried. If dried, they will need to be rehydrated before use.
- Sesame oil: To sauté garlic and ginger and to add authentic flavor.
- Garlic and ginger: Adds much-needed aromatics to the sauce.
- Brown sugar: Adds sweetness and can be swapped for honey or other types of sugar.
- Bonito flakes: Fish flakes add “umami” to the broth. This can be substituted for fish sauce.
- Mirin: Japanese cooking wine, similar to sake but slightly sweeter.
- Soy sauce: Adds saltiness and savoriness and can be swapped for a gluten-free alternative.
- Water: Additional liquid needed to soften the menma. Swap for a broth to impart more flavor.
Building the Perfect Ramen
As mentioned above, menma is typically served as a topping to ramen. If you’re not familiar, ramen is a Japanese noodle dish that is comprised of wheat noodles, a savory broth, and an assortment of toppings that each add depth of flavor.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how to make ramen as part of your next Japanese feast:
- Broth: Simmer chicken or pork broth with bonito flakes and kombu seaweed to make a rich and aromatic dashi, also known as a Japanese broth.
- Noodles: Ramen noodles are typically found as instant noodles, meaning they can be added directly to the broth and cooked in minutes.
- Protein: Thinly sliced beef or pork is the most common, but you can use chicken, shrimp, or tofu, or simply top your ramen with a soft-boiled egg.
- Toppings: Traditional toppings include menma, nori, green onions, soft-boiled eggs, or bean sprouts.
- If your menma is dried, you will need to rehydrate it by covering the dried menma in hot water. Let this simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the bamboo shoots are soft.
- If using canned menma, it is recommended that you strain and rinse your bamboo shoots, as the canned water flavor can negatively affect the results.
- To make this sauce have more of a dashi flavor profile, add one sheet of kombu to the liquid, and remove before boiling.
What does menma taste like?
Menma is mild in flavor, with a slight sweet or nutty flavor on its own. It also does a great job of absorbing whatever flavors it is prepared alongside.
Is eating bamboo shoots good for you?
Bamboo shoots are rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, and manganese, to name a few. In addition, they are also low-carb, low-calorie, and high in fiber, making them a good ingredient to incorporate as part of a weight loss or low-carb diet.
What is menma made out of?
Menma is made when bamboo shoots are sun-dried, then fermented, then either dried again or canned in water. Once reconstituted, they have a mild flavor and a chewy consistency that adds texture and absorbs flavors, making for a more complex ramen or side dish.
- 8 oz sliced bamboo shoots
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp bonito flakes
- ¼ cup mirin
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 cup water
- Drain and rinse bamboo shoots. Slice them into thin slices if they are not already.
- In a skillet over medium heat, add sesame oil followed by garlic and ginger. Let cook for 2 minutes.
- Add bamboo shoots, brown sugar, bonito flakes, mirin, soy sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer (uncovered) for 10 minutes.
- Discard bonito flakes and serve bamboo shoots atop ramen or as a side dish. Store leftovers in an airtight container and consume them within one week.