Things that are funny: listening to your relatives fawn over edible plants at the state botanical gardens. And by edible I mean the sort of plants I’ve only seen Southeast Asians eat. I have grown accustomed to discouraging the OGs (that’s Original ‘FuGees for anyone who isn’t hip to my jive) from harvesting plants in public.
Sometimes they are unstoppable. My younger cousins have had the pleasure of going wild bamboo harvesting with the OGs. It is the role I have handed down to them – well, not intentionally. Everyone gets recruited, eventually. Everyone.
As a teenager it is a little disconcerting – embarrassing even – to be seen pulling over on the side of a major road, equipped with machetes and rice sacks, dressed like Viet Cong. Mom and Pa Boun might have been scoping out this site for a week, on their way to work or various errands. The bamboo looks thick here…probably a good haul. Then you have to wedge yourself through a fence and fend off spider webs and ticks, just so you can serve as a pack mule while the adults gather as many shoots and stalks as they need.
I am grateful that they now harvest the bamboo from Mom’s front yard (and the future generations can be grateful for this as well). She has a knack for uprooting things from the woods, sticking it in the dirt, and willing it to grow. Her bamboo grove has to be carefully watched, or it will take over the whole Shire.
People think I’m joking when I say my family is equipped to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I am not joking.
If you ever have the honor of dining at my family’s table, I give you fair warning: a lot of what they eat is considered roughage, and you are in for a short course in colon cleanse.
As an example, I have prepared some classic roughage for you. There is a plant that grows well in flooded fields, which we call paak boong. In English, I have seen it called morning glory, but in my experience you get funny looks when you say I love morning glory! Maybe you’ll have a different experience – try it and let me know.
Quick & Dirty Paak Boong
- Several cups of paak boong (they cook down a lot, much like spinach)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (I like a lot of garlic)
- Oyster sauce or soy sauce to taste
- Cracked black pepper
Slice the stalks at a diagonal in 1-2 inch segments. Wash and dry thoroughly. In a hot wok, heat up oil and lightly saute garlic. Add paak boong and toss with oyster/soy sauce. Careful not to overcook the greens or, as I have a tendency to do, overcrowd the wok. Finish with cracked black pepper. That’s it! They are tasty with jasmine rice or even noodles.