Chinese Garlic Chives
Somewhere between chives and green garlic, these tender shoots are a great way to add a fresh garlicky bite to any dish. Garlic chives are a member of the Allium family, cousins of onions, leeks and garlic. Though fairly new to western cuisines, garlic chives are a staple in most of asia. They are commonly seen cut up and mixed with Pad Thai, or incorporated into any number of Chinese stir-fries. They can be found in most asian markets where produce is sold. I recently found them at our local Chinese grocery, which surprised me because exotic ingredients are infuriatingly difficult to come by in Barcelona!
The Chinese have been growing and cooking with garlic chives for at least 3,000 years (since the Chou dynasty – 1027 BC to 256 BC).) But the popularity of this graceful herb with the pretty white flowers extends beyond China. Japanese cooks call garlic chives “nira” and use them frequently in meat and seafood recipes. And many Asian cooks wouldn’t consider a noodle stir-fry complete without adding chopped fresh garlic chives for a bit of extra flavor.
Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup with Spinach and Garlic Chives
- a 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken
- 8 thin slices fresh ginger
- 1 bunch scallions, cut crosswise into thirds
- 10 cups water
- 3/4 cup Chinese rice wine or medium-dry Sherry
- 2 ounces dried rice-stick noodles (rice vermicelli)
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach, coarse stems discarded and leaves washed, drained, and chopped coarse (about 4 packed cups)
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced fresh garlic chives or regular fresh chives
With a cleaver or heavy chef’s knife cut chicken into large pieces. Cut chicken through bones into 2-inch pieces. In a large pot of boiling water blanch chicken 1 minute. In a colander drain chicken and rinse under cold water.
With flat side of cleaver or knife lightly smash ginger and scallions. In cleaned pot bring 10 cups water to a boil with chicken, gingerroot, scallions, rice wine or Sherry and simmer, uncovered, skimming froth occasionally, 2 hours. Pour broth through a fine strainer or chinois into a large heatproof bowl, setting the chicken aside to cool. Traditionally this soup would be served with just broth, noodles and vegetables, the meat reserved for another application. I like to serve it with some of the chicken in the bowl as well, it’s entirely up to you.
In the clean pot bring broth to a boil. Add noodles and boil, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and simmer, stirring once or twice, until spinach turns bright green and is just tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in chives and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 1 minute. If you like, add some pieces of chicken meat during this re-heating process. I also like to finish each bowl with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
Whether hungover, or suffering from a common cold, this soup will definitely set you straight!