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.
Here are a number of garlic chive recipes for you to try. Check out Versatile Garlic Chives for more information on this popular herb, including the different types of garlic chives, what to do when you get them home from the store, and ideas on how to use garlic chives in both Chinese and non-Asian dishes. Plus, learn about the health benefits of garlic chives.
Recipes Using Garlic Chives:
Cantonese Spring Rolls With Pork and Shrimp - Delicate spring rolls filled with shredded pork, shrimp, black mushrooms and garlic chives.
Vegetarian Potstickers - Chinese garlic chives add flavor to this potsticker recipe made with mashed tofu.
Flowering Chives Stir-fry - a simple stir-fry that goes well with seafood or noodles
Healthy Baked Chicken Chow Mein - a HeartSmart recipe from Stephen Wong
Scrambled Eggs With Chives - garlic chives go very nicely with egg dishes.
Sprouts and Chives Stir-fry - Delicate yellow chives are stir-fried with mung bean sprouts.
Nirareba – a Japanese dish made with garlic chives (called nira in Japan) and sautéed liver.
Vegetable Salad With Buttermilk Dressing - Salad greens are topped with vegetables that have been marinated in a rich buttermilk dressing.
Coconut and Seafood Soup With Garlic Chives - this version of Thailand's famous soup, Tom Yam Goong, adds chopped garlic chives.
When is a chive not a chive? When it's a Chinese garlic chive.
With their white flowers, long green shoots and lack of a bulb, garlic chives bear a strong resemblance to regular chives. That's not surprising, since both are members of the onion family. However, in this case appearances are deceiving. While the standard chive has a mild flavor similar to onions, Chinese garlic chives are known for their strong “garlicky” flavor.
The combination of a chive-like appearance and strong flavor makes garlic chives a popular seasoning. You’ll find chopped chives showing up in Chinese recipes for soups, stews, salads and even meat marinades. But don’t feel you need to get out the wok to enjoy them. Garlic chives make a flavourful alternative to regular chives in non-Asian dishes. Feel free to add a few snips of garlic chives the next time you’re preparing scrambled eggs or an omelette, or substitute them for regular chives in a recipe for herbed bread.
Need another reason to try them? They’re a great substitute for garlic on nights when you don’t feel like smashing and peeling cloves.
Now, all that’s left is to decide which variety of Chinese garlic chive - all of which come from the same plant - best meets your needs:
Standard garlic chives (Gau Choy) – Garlic chives look similar to chives, but their leaves are broad and flat instead of hollow. Their garlicky flavor enhances cooked dishes, particularly ones where the food is slowly simmered in a sauce, such as red-cooked stews or soups, or in a stuffing. Use them also to add flavor to stir-fries. They go particularly well with eggs and seafood – you’ll often find them paired with scrambled eggs or prawns.
Flowering Chives (Gau Choy Fa) – Flowering chives have hollow, light green stems and yellow buds on the end. But don’t let their delicate appearance fool you: flowering chives have a stronger garlicky flavor than Gau Choy. A popular delicacy in Chinese cuisine, they are used in salads and stir-fried alone. The yellow buds make an attractive garnish and, unlike regular chives, they are edible. Their popularity means that flowering chives are often easier to find than garlic chives, both in regular supermarkets and Asian groceries.
Feel free to use them in place of garlic chives.
Yellow Chives (Gau Wong) – Yellow chives are garlic chives that have been grown under cover, without any exposure to direct sunlight. This prevents the leaves from turning green, as the plant’s chlorophyll-absorbing molecules never kick into action.
Yellow chives have thick flat leaves, a yellow color, and a mild, “oniony” flavor. Like flowering chives, they are considered to be a delicacy, and often served alone or paired with another vegetable in a stir-fry. Use them in soups, with noodles, or whenever you want to add chives with a milder flavor than either garlic or flowering chives.
Garlic Chive Preparation and Cooking Tips
Fresh garlic chives have a short lifespan. When purchasing regular garlic chives, look for dark green leaves with no sign of wilting. Remove any dark green leaves that have wilted before cooking. Flowering chives usually come packaged, with the ends already trimmed. Look for a bright green color and fat yellow buds. Both of these types of chives will last for a few days stored in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
Fresh yellow chives, on the other hand, should be used within the same day. Whichever type of chive you buy, trim off the ends if they are not already trimmed and wash thoroughly before using.
For best results, add the chives near the end of the cooking process – otherwise the flavor fades.
Nutritional Information About Garlic Chives
Garlic chives pack a major nutritional punch for a mere 30 calories per 100 grams. Low in fat and high in dietary fibre and protein, they contain high amounts of Vitamin C and carotene, and are a good source of calcium. They also contain Vitamin B1 and B2. In Chinese medicine, garlic chives are considered to be a yang or warming food.
Garlic Chives – The Ultimate Antiseptic?
Like other members of the garlic and onion family, garlic chives contain a sulphur-rich mustard oil that aids digestion and helps promote the flow of blood. The rejuvenating power of this oil has been known since ancient times, when chives were used to heal wounds. Today, Chinese cooks put garlic chives’ antiseptic qualities to good use by combining the chives with pork fat to season a wok.
More Resources, Including Recipes
Garlic Chives Recipes - recipes for all three types of garlic chives
Photo of Yellow Chives
Garlic chives: Gau Choy, Chinese chives, Chinese Leek, Nira (in Japan)
Flowering Chives: Gau Choy Fa, Flowering garlic chives, Flowering Chinese chives, flowering leek, Chinese leek flower,
Yellow Chives: Blanched chives
Scientific Name: Allium Tuberosum