Thursday, November 1, 2012

Flowering Chinese Chives / Garlic Scapes

I had stir-fried garlic scapes at one of the dai-pai-dongs in Tai Po Hui Market Cooked Food Centre (the latter will be the subject of another post) last weekend.
Flowering Chinese chives (also called garlic scapes) are called gáu-choi-fâa (韭菜花) in Cantonese. They also go by the name of syun-mìuh (蒜苗; lit. garlic sprouts / shoots) and syun-sâm (蒜心; lit. garlic-heart).
This summer vegetable (which blooms late in the season) is commonly found at wet markets (but hardly ever at supermarkets). I seldom cook it (there is no special reason - only that maybe I forgot about its existence) so I was very happy when the waitress listed it among other few vegetables available at this time of the year.
Realizing how easy it would be to do the stir-fry dish at home I checked at the wet market a few days later and was happy to find a bunch.

Unlike the regular Chinese chives or leeks called gáu-choi (韭菜) that have flattened stems (leaves) flowering Chinese chives (garlic scapes) have tubular stems. I personally prefer the latter as the stems are tender and have a mild onion taste. The flat leaf type is more pungent and gets easily tough (I found it too hard to chew).

I got a bunch (photo no.1) of garlic chives for HK$5 at the wet market and it was enough to make a small dish for two persons (as compared with HK$40 at the dai-pai-dong – photo no.2).

How to cook it? The young garlic chives’ tops (buds) are tender and edible. However they are frequently cut off and discarded. The green stalk, cut into 1”-2” length, is usually stir-fried on it own with garlic.

No.1:Floweringc Chinese chives
No.2:  Stir-fried flowering Chinese chives
This is a very simple and healthy dish that everyone can make. I said simple but yet it is not easy to make stir-fry dishes at home especially if you are, like me, cooking with a Western stove. The Chinese stir-fry method needs ”wok-hei"* to give the dish fragrance.

Nevertheless my stir-fry was tasty and I am still wondering why I had been ignoring this vegetable for so long. 

*: " Wok-hei” (鑊氣 wohk-hei; lit. wok-air/breath) means high heat + constant and quick stirring (and of course, for that, you need: 1/ a good wok, and 2/ a good stove).   

Flowering Chinese chives can also be combined with beef, seafood, bean curd or eggs (omelette).
I read that this vegetable is also good for making pesto (Western style). I’ve personally never tried making pesto with it.

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