Thursday, April 25, 2013

The yellow chives of Shaanxi

Yellow chives are like onions with manners. 

Traditionally grown under covers to keep them from seeing the sun and turning green, these long, thin leaves as a result grow into a beautiful combination of gold and silver.

This coddling also tamps down the oniony flavor so that you are left with little more than a suggestion of chives, making them the perfect ingredient for elegant dinners.

I like them, though, for just about any meal of the day. Yellow chives are wonderful in jiaozi, where they combine so well with pork that they seem made for each other. 

Or, they can be simply stir-fried, as in this Shaanxi-style dish, which is great over steamed rice for breakfast, lunch, or a snack.
Great for breakfast

Stir-fried yellow chives and eggs 
Dàn chǎo jiŭhuáng 蛋炒韭黃 
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound yellow chives
6 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil (or half butter and half oil)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Rinse the chives and pat them dry. Trim off any dry ends or less than perfect leaves. Either finely chop the chives if you like them particularly tender or cut them into 1-inch lengths if you prefer a crunchier texture.

2. Heat a wok over high, and when it is hot, add the oil and salt. Swirl the salt in the oil to dissolve it, and then toss in all of the chives. Quickly toss the chives in the hot oil until they wilt and a few strands start to brown. 

3. Scoot the chives to one side and add a bit more oil if you don’t see any at the bottom of the wok. Pour the eggs into the oil and stir them around as they curdle. As soon most of them have formed large curds, toss the eggs with the chives. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Plate and serve immediately.
Pool the eggs next to the chives

Select yellow chives that have absolutely no rot, as slimy leaves take a lot of effort to pick off. Keep the chives dry and refrigerated, and then use them as soon as possible.

Variations on this recipe are easy and numerous: instead of the eggs, try julienned pressed bean curd, shredded pork or chicken, or even thin strips of fresh black mushrooms. If you wish, use soy sauce instead of the salt.

If you are making this to accompany more Muslim-style dishes, try using all or part butter instead of the oil, which will complement the meat dishes well.

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