A little touch of luxury during the winter season - fresh, tender bamboo shoots. The Chinese refer to them as winter bamboo, as this is the only season to eat them. Baby shoots, that barely pierce the ground. They come wrapped in fairly sturdy sheets of interlocking skin - after you peel and skim off the tough outer layers, you're left with the precious heart, about 1/3 of its original size. Sort of like getting to the centre of an artichoke, with all the buried underfoot romance of truffles.
We eat them with vegetables, thinly sliced. Quite versatile, they are just as delicious in soups. But bamboo shoots reach their pinnacle with sea cucumber. In thin strips, cooked together until the flavours and textures combine into a roaring crescendo of absolute gastronomic bliss.