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Posts Tagged ‘Garlic chive’

Garlic Chives, Herb Essentials

In Seattle, it is the re-sprouting of garlic chives from the ground that tells me every year that spring is here. By April, I am enjoying my first harvest of garlic chives. Growing up with a rich Thai-Chinese heritage, garlic chives were always present in my family kitchen. We call it Gui Chai -กุยช่าย. Also known as Chinese chives, allium tuberosum is native to China and Japan, and widespread throughout Southeast Asia. It is one of the many herbs that I enjoy growing in Seattle. It greets early spring every year around April, and in the fall, around September, the leaves die off. In warm climates like Thailand my family enjoys its long, flat green leaves all year round simply by cutting off a clump of chive stalks with a knife run close to the ground; two weeks later it will have grown up again. I can tell you from experience that garlic chives are easy to grow and delightful to have in your garden. A little bit of fresh garlic chives in your cooking will go a long way to providing an essential flavor of Southeast Asia.

Garlic Chives - Kui Chai-กุยช่าย

Garlic Chive – Kui Chai -กุยช่าย

One of my projects last summer was growing garlic chives from local Ed Hume Seeds for this post

Garlic chives are easy to grow from seeds. They like to grow in a cluster,
so I sowed 10 to 15 seeds next to each other.

I love the fact that growing a few clusters of garlic chives inspired me to cook more with them. While waiting for one plant to re-sprout after cutting, I would cut a second one that had completely re-sprouted. The fresher the garlic chives, the sweeter and less pungent they are. They taste more like garlic than regular chives, and not at all like green onions. Don’t reject the pungent aroma of fresh garlic chives—after cooking they have a sweet and complex flavor with a delightful fragrance.

Garlic chives are essential in Southeast Asian cuisine. In Thailand, they are widely used in stir-fries, dumpling fillings, rice pancakes, added to soups, as one stalk in a fresh noodle roll, and, most importantly, they are inseparable from the renowned Phad Thai noodles. But they are important in other cuisines as well. Recently, at Hue Ky Mi Gai restaurant in Seattle, a simple chicken broth with a few strands of garlic chives caught me by surprise. I was amazed at how much the garlic chives in a simple good broth enhanced the food experience of the Vietnamese cuisine.

Classic Garlic Chives Dishes in Thai Cuisine

For this post I will focus on garlic chives and how we use them in dishes, and not talk about possible substitutions. It is the essential flavor from this long, green, flat-leaved herb that completes the taste and gives some classic dishes the flavor profiles that make them stand out in world cuisine.

Phad Thai

Phad Thai at May's Restaurant

Bean sprouts, lime, banana blossom, garlic chives, ground roasted peanuts and chili powder are classic condiments for Phad Thai

Garlic chives play a more important role in Phad Thai than non-Thais could imagine. It is a common fact in Thailand that we use garlic chives for Phad Thai and have done so since Phad Thai’s inception less than a hundred years ago. In a Phad Thai dish there is a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The incredible flavors of sweet from palm sugar, sour from tamarind, salty from fish sauce and spicy from chili are combined with one more element—bitter from garlic chives. Together they build a complex and memorable flavor profile.

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

bean sprout, tofu and garlic chive

Bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives – Phad Tao Gua Tao Nge Phuket- ผัดถั่วงอกกับเต้าหู้ภูเก็ต

Mung bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives are classics for stir-frying. It is amazing to also see these same three ingredients in Phad Thai.

Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย

garlic chives dumpling

Garlic Chives Dumplings – Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย

Khanom Gui Chai – ขนมกุยช่าย – is a street food and a snack that is very popular throughout Thailand. My photo above is from the floating market in Thailand where many Thai-Chinese families sells their specialties to locals. Garlic chives are stir-fried with soy sauce for a filling and the dumpling is steamed and fried. Before serving, a little bit of dark and light soy sauce is added as seasoning.

 
© 2012  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com 
 
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A Stir-Fry from the Palm of My Hand

When I was growing up, in the mornings my grandma would often drop a few coins in the palm of my hand and tell me to go purchase Tao Gua (Tofu), Tao Nge (Mung Bean Sprout), and Guiy Chai (garlic chives) from a mobile market—a pick up truck filled with ingredients. I would return with a bag full of three pieces of tofu cake, mung bean sprouts, and a bunch of garlic chives. Together they made the cheapest and best stir-fry and we ate it about once a week. We would usually stir-fry them later for lunch; if it were for dinner, my grandma would soak the bean sprouts in cold water to keep them fresh in the tropical climate. This was back before we had a refrigerator. When I was at the Asian Market yesterday, I purchased these three ingredients in almost the same quantities as I did then and it came up to $ 2.75, only a few dollars and some coins.

Thais call bean sprouts Thua Ngok (ถั่วงอก), but in my hometown of Phuket we call them Tau Nge, a  Phuket Hokkien word. Hokkien is a Chinese dialect spoken by many Chinese throughout Southeast Asia. Tauge, is the word for mung bean sprouts in Chinese Hokkien and in Indonesian and Malaysian languages as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Dutch also use taugé for bean sprouts, probably a holdover from the time when they occupied Indonesia.

Mung bean sprouts, tofu and garlic chives are long-time favorite vegetables of Chinese Hokkien cuisine and culture, even though bean sprouts are actually native to Bangladesh.

Firm Tofu, Mung Bean Sprouts and Garlic Chives

Green onions or regular chives are usually a good substitute for garlic chives, but in this case I strongly recommend that you use garlic chives in order to maintain the flavors and authenticity of this dish. Garlic chives are available all year round at the Asian Market and it is a perennial herb in the Northwest. You may find other recipes where you will want to use them as well.

The other day when I was dining with a friend, I was so impressed to find a similar dish served at the Tamarind Tree Restaurant in Seattle. Their dish was almost identical in flavor, but instead of tofu, it used shitake mushrooms. I hope when you are at the Tamarind Tree Restaurant, you will please try Nấm xào giá ~ Bean sprout mushroom.

Phuket Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives

Phad Tao Gua Tao Nge Phuket

ผัดถั่วงอกกับเต้าหู้ภูเก็ต

5 minutes total preparation and cooking time, 3 ingredients and less than $3. It is my all time favorite stir-fry.

Serves: 4
 
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 (16 ounce) package  firm tofu, cut into large pieces about 1/4-inch thick
1 cup garlic chives cut into 1-inch lengths (about 15 garlic chives),
6 cups mung bean sproutss, washed with cold water and strained
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus one tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat the wok on high heat, then test it with a few drops of water. If the water evaporates in two seconds, pour in 1 tablespoon canola oil. Cover the surface with oil by using a spatula or other utensil, then spread out tofu in the wok and fry on medium heat until they firm up and turn a golden color. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the same wok on high heat and add the remaining canola oil and the garlic; stir until golden, about 10 seconds. Stir in bean sprouts and cook on high heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly. It will sound really interesting and steaming. It is the moisture from the bean sprouts creating the sounds against the hot wok. You will see steam, but not smoke. Then stir in garlic chives to cook lightly, about 45 seconds. Stir in tofu, soy sauce and sugar. Mix together, then serve promptly with hot steamed jasmine rice.

Pranee’s note:

The bean sprouts should not cook longer than 2 minutes, or they will lost their crunch. This dish is very simple and the flavors depend on having the freshest bean sprouts, tofu and chives—and that is enough! I love this dish because it has a clean and simple flavor and texture. The moisture released from the bean sprouts makes a sauce. If that doesn’t happen, add one or two tablespoons of water.

Another variation of this dish that you might see in Thailand substitutes calamari, prawns or pig blood cake for the tofu.

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen 
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. 
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .


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