Ironically, the immature bamboo used to make menma is most often not from Japan at all, but rather Taiwan or sometimes southern China. In Taiwanese cuisine, it’s often served on top of rice porridge. In fact, the Japanese name “menma” is a combination of ramen (hence “men”) and part of the Japanese term for South Asian bamboo.
The flavor of menma is distinct on its own but is still mild enough that it doesn’t overpower the full, rich ramen broth that it’s usually eaten with. It’s slightly salty with a bit of a pickley tang while the texture is smooth and tender but with a substantial, satisfying flesh when you bite into it.
At Uwajimaya, you can find menma in our grocery aisle alongside other pickled, fermented, and canned vegetables.