[Photographs: Chichi Wang]
The existing obsession with ramps, those wild leeks that go for a premium in farmers’ markets and gourmet foods suppliers, had me imagining about my have most loved garlick-y, leek-y vegetable: Chinese chives, or jiu cai. While Chinese chives resemble the a lot more recognizable chives used as herbs, the previous are sizeable and leafy, which destinations them squarely in the vegetable relatively than the garnish camp. Garlicky in flavor and juicy and crisp in texture, jiu cai are normally stir-fried or extra to dumplings.
Considered to be additional of a delicacy than jiu cai, Chinese yellow chives are chives that have been developed under include with no publicity to immediate sunlight (consequently the yellow pigment). Yellow chives are to regular jiu cai what organization tofu is to silken—the style may possibly be primarily the exact same, but the texture and taste are much far more delicate. As a 3rd solution, think about flowering chives: named for their hollow, light inexperienced stems and yellow buds, these stalks are gentle and crisp, although with noticeably less garlicky taste than possibly the inexperienced or yellow types.
Better Than Ramps
At the risk of incensing ramp fans just about everywhere, I transpire to consider that Chinese chives are excellent to ramps as a sautéed vegetable. Listen to me out: Ramps come with a bulbous white section which is juicy, but tastes largely like onion, while Chinese chives are nothing at all but the tender, leafy greens. If I want a sautéed dish to have the white portion of leeks in it, then I’ll just go with leeks or shallots. Chinese chives, on the other hand, are all about the tender and crisp leaves that, when stir-fried briefly, explode with garlicky taste and juice.
You will come across Chinese chives at Asian markets just about everywhere, along with the lesser recognised versions of yellow and flowering—though of study course, you may most likely odor them before you see them at the stalls. One particular advantage that ramps have above chives is that ramps really don’t give off noxious fumes in their uncooked condition.
…But Beware of the Odor
In my continuing attempts to exchange the fresh new air in public areas with my possess arrestingly pungent scents, my subway experience back again home with Chinese chives was not without the need of its share of amusement.
“Oh man, it smells rubbish in below!” squealed one particular teenage girl to her friend. Then she lined her nose and turned absent from me.
Nevertheless I’d under no circumstances imagined of chives as smelling like trashcan product, they are undeniably pungent. Put jiu cai in a place and your dwelling will odor like practically nothing but chives. In any circumstance, the adolescents remained unconvinced in spite of my earnest explanation that Chinese chives really don’t scent undesirable at all when cooked.
My favored pairing for stir-fried jiu cai is eggs. Though pork is also typically stir-fried together with the vegetable, I feel that eggs pair a lot more elegantly with the tenderness of jiu cai. Eating a dish of pork and jiu cai will have you chewing on the meat prolonged right after the jiu cai have been masticated, but stir-fried eggs and jiu cai are similarly tender. Include stir-fried jiu cai and eggs to a plate of rice cakes (nian gao) for a one-dish meal. If you have additional time, test including finely chopped jiu cai to your dumplings and wontons. Their garlicky flavor goes properly with anything at all, and for a portion of the value of ramps.