Chinese chives (allium tuberosum)

Chives, garlic, and shallots are closely allied to onions. Each has its own distinctive flavour that makes it a valued addition to many recipes, especially to stir-fried dishes. Chives are mild, small versions of the onion. Having no bulb, only the green shoots are eaten. In China, which has relatively few food herbs (medicinal herbs are abundant), garlic chives are very popular as a flavouring herb. With their stronger flavour they are preferred in stuffings as well as in stir-fried dishes and soups.

There are several variations of this chive:

Yellow chives are distinctly, if mildly, onion-flavoured. Their yellow colour and mild taste come from their being grown out of direct sunlight.

Flowering chives have hollow stems topped by a flower bud. The tough ends are chopped off and the remainder is consumed as a vegetable.

Green chives have a distinctive pungency that adds richness to stir-fried dishes.

Shopping tips

Buy them fresh at Chinese markets or grocers. They should be fresh-looking, not wilted and tired. Flowering chives will be stiff and aromatic. Yellow chives are limp and should not have brown edges. Garlic and green chives should be deep green and fresh-looking.

Storage notes

Wash and dry thoroughly and store, between paper towels, in a plastic bag in the lower part of your refrigerator. They are highly perishable. Most will remain fresh for 2 days. however, yellow chives are extremely fragile and will only keep for 1 day.

Useful hints

To prepare, select the freshest leaves possible and trim any, decaying parts, then proceed with your recipe.

© Ken Hom and reproduced with his kind permission.