It traditionally marks the beginning of spring when bamboo grows lightning fast. Nicknamed “the garden of bamboo shoots and orchids,” Sheshan Hill in Songjiang District has its own mountain delicacy to offer in this season of blossoms — Sheshan sundou (笋豆), a popular snack made of local bamboo shoots and soybeans.
Soak the beans in clean water for a night in advance. Cut the shoots into small cubes, and boil them for about 20 minutes. Prepare the ingredients — oil, oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and rock sugar.
Put the cooked bamboo shoots, the water-soaked soybeans and the ingredients together in a casserole. Pour in water, boil them and simmer for another 20 minutes until the soup gets thick. Turn on the oven to 200 degrees Centigrades for 15 minutes, and 150 degrees for another 15 minutes. The dish is done.
What’s special about Sheshan sundou is its unique light fragrance of orchids. There’s a story behind it, too.
In the days of yore, orchids proliferated on Sheshan Hill, drawing in hordes of visitors. So many, in fact, that many of the plants were trampled to death.
Local villagers planted bamboo forests to protect the orchids from walkers. In the ensuing years, the flowers and the bamboos thrived side by side.
They came to depend on each other. The bamboos protected the orchids and the fragrance of the orchids lent uniqueness to the bamboo shoots.
The two plants were so famous that even Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) was attracted to Songjiang during one of his southern tours in 1720. He appreciated the flora and also tasted the tender, crisp and fresh bamboo shoots, surprised by the orchid fragrance.
The shoots are used to add texture and flavor to many fine culinary creations.