Once you’ve peeled your shoots, there are a number of ways to proceed with cooking; the main thing is to leech out the cyanide-related components and the accompanying bitterness. With some shoots, multiple boilings in different changes of water are recommended. In the case of my moso shoots, which are prime for eating, I’m happy with just one process. The cooking medium I use is what I call a mild pickle-broth: to a big pot, add a tight fist of salt, a tight fist of dark brown sugar, and enough lime-juice or vinegar to add a slight acidity.
There is no need for a strong brine, or even the salt-levels recommended for pasta. (Most people add far too little salt when boiling pasta.) There should be plenty of liquid, probably more than I’ve used for the batch in the photo, because you are leeching as well as cooking.
I like to slice the shoots finely, bring the pressure right up in my cheapo Portuguese cooker, then turn it off.
Sieve and ditch the cooking liquid (essential!). Job done. Your slices are ready for freezing, adding to anything at all, or eating immediately with salt, pepper, butter, aioli etc.
I’ve reviewed an oolong of Guangdong (Dancong or Phoenix) and an oolong of Anxi (Tikuanyin). Both times it brought a little rain. Because we’re presently in need of a great deal of rain, it may be time to pull out a really good and representative oolong of Wuyi.
Wuyi oolongs are also called rock or cliff oolongs, a reference to the landscape of that part of Fujian province from which they come. (They’re also called fat-burners and slimming teas all over the internet, but stuff all that.) There are a number of famous types, all of which can vary in quality, fermentation, and roast profile. There are interesting fibs and legends surrounding their origins, and Da Hong Pao, or Big Red Robe, has more than its share. Here we see what are purported to be the few surviving original bushes of the Da Hong Pao type…
…except they’re probably not. Local monks may have branded the most inaccessible bushes as the real-ancient-thing, because the real real-ancient-thing was too accessible for souvenir hunters and tea thieves. Of course, that could be another interesting fib. It’s very confusing…it’s China!
Once a rare tribute tea for emperors and the like (not to mention influential comrades within the Workers’ Paradise), Da Hong Pao has been cloned successfully and become a widely available in many formats. One of these evolutions is called Bei Dou, the North Star.
Around 1950, a certain Mr. Yao, obtained some original cuttings and began to create new varieties. After an interruption, for some reason called a Cultural Revolution, which destroyed his research, Mr. Yao was able to potter away in secret and finally resume his work in full. The result was a real Cultural Revolution: Bei Dou Yi Hao, or North Star Number One (reference being to first generation clone).
It’s such a satisfying oolong. It’s got the fullness, the mineral flavours, the toastiness of a great Wuyi: but there’s also a huge fruit component, and such an enveloping aroma. It’s not cheap…why would it be? I think I got mine from Teacuppa, a Malaysian site that has a reasonable stock of most Chinese teas but an outstanding selection of Wuyi oolong. Teaspring will also sell you a good specimen.
A caution: Wuyi oolong is one of the spammiest things on the net, mainly due to the fat-burning claims. Try a search and you’ll see. Teacuppa, Teaspring, and Jing Tea Shop (China) are reputable internet sources, and good for oolong. There are also a couple of good shops for Formosa oolong. Just be a little wary, especially if you see the words “slimming” or “fat-burning”.
Once you’ve wrapped your laughing-gear around a genuine Bei Dou or Bai Ji Guan, or any of the other pinnacle-teas of Wuyi, you won’t give a bugger about the fat-burning palaver.