Bamboo shoots, locally known as Banshkurul, are a popular food among ethnic people living in the Chattogram Hill Tracts region. Now, the food has been gaining popularity among Bangladeshi residents and tourists there.
Aleya Akter Moni, a resident of Hafezghona area in Bandarban town, said her family loves bamboo sprouts. She and her family members started eating them five years ago. She became so good at preparing it that Moni taught chefs of several renowned restaurants in Dhaka how to use it in different menus. Usually, Bangalis cook them with dry fish. It can also be cooked with lentils and meat.
Bamboo shoots can be prepared in different ways.
"Bamboo shoots taste good when cooked with meat. Ethnic minorities like to cook it with crab or nappi, a paste made from dry fish.
On the other hand, tourists like to eat it with dry shrimp," said Shoimongching Marma, cook at Jummo Restaurant in Ujani Para area of the town.
Noyon Tanchangya, chef at Choruivati Restaurant in Bandarban town, said, "Now bamboo shoots have also become a favourite item of Bangali residents and tourists here. Around a dozen menus can be prepared with bamboo shoots."
The growth of its popularity has made Rafiq Al Mamun, director of the restaurant, worried. "The demand for bamboo shoots has increased as people have learned that they are a delicious item," He said. The wholesale traders of bamboo shoots need to be discouraged. Otherwise, there will be a bamboo crisis at some stage."
Bamboo sprouts are new bamboo culms that come out of the ground – from many bamboo species. There are many kinds of bamboo species, and the tastes of the sprouts differ depending on the variety. Primarily the mitinga and muli species are preferable for their unique taste.
Bamboo shoots of other species taste bitter.
Tender bamboo shoots are collected usually from mid April to September.
The ethnic women collect them from bamboo gardens and forests and bring them to the markets. Several kinds of bamboo sprouts are found in Madhyam Para, Balaghata, Kyachingghata, and Kalaghata Bazar in Bandarban town.
Several traders from Chattogram city buy bamboo shoots from Bandarban and sell them in the city.
Akbar Hossain, a wholesale trader of Chattogram, has been in the business of bamboo shoots for several years. He purchases several hundred kgs of bamboo shoots two days a week from the weekly market in Madhyam Para of Bandarban town and sells them in the Free Port and Sholoshahar areas of the port city.
The prices remain high towards the beginning of the harvesting season.
Samaching Marma, a bamboo shoots seller in Madhyam Para, said, "Early in the season, a bunch of bamboo shoots weighing more than a kg are sold at Tk150-Tk200 depending on their size."
Shoinuma and Hlameching Marma of Hansama Para brought around 30 kg of bamboo shoots to the market recently. They said they had sold each bunch at Tk30 as it was mid-season.
Another seller named Umanu Marma of Bakichhara Para said bamboo shoots were plenty in the forests and bamboo gardens earlier.
"However, now these are not available like before as the forests are disappearing. Also, the demand for bamboo shoots has grown a lot. A good price helps us run our families," said Umanu.
Bijoy Kumar Das, the district marketing officer, says July is the peak season for bamboo shoots. During this season, from 500 kg to one tonne of the produce are sold per day. The sellers get good prices towards the beginning and the end of the season. Currently, the average price of bamboo shoots per kg is Tk40.
Dr AKM Nazmul Haque, deputy director of Bandarban's Department of Agricultural Extension, told The Business Standard, "Banshkurul is a traditional food item of the hill people. It is in high demand among the local residents. Though plains people are not used to eating bamboo shoots, tourists like to try them."