• Asian chives, also called garlic chives, are not known for their smell, but are loved for their flavour. (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
Asian chives are adored in Taiwan – its pungent fragrance and all.
By
Michelle Tchea

16 May 2022 - 10:58 PM  UPDATED 19 May 2022 - 12:05 PM

What comes to mind when you think of Taiwanese food? Stinky tofu? Found in Taiwan, this delicacy really does pack more than a punch in both flavour and smell. Indeed dirty socks, garbage and other off-putting words are normally used to describe Taiwan's unofficial national dish, but it is something I hold dear and very close to my snacking chest.

While it can be hard to get a hold of stinky tofu in Australia, it's not hard to get hold of its cousin, the Asian chive (韭菜), which is equally adored in Taiwan, China and many Southeast Asian countries.

You'll find Asian chives (sometimes called garlic chives) in all Chinese grocers, particularly during winter. You can also grow it in your own garden like many Taiwanese households do.

Asian chives look similar to common chives, but are more grass-like with a stronger root and a thinner tip - the most important distinction is their intense flavour, particularly when cooked. Just like Taiwanese basil, this is a green that families love to include as one of their five servings of vegetables per day.

Chopped into large two-centimetre batons, they're great when sautéed with scrambled eggs or in omelettes, as my mum does on a weekly basis. However, Asian chives are mostly used in dumplings  both boiled and fried varieties. These dumplings are popular not only in Taiwan but across China.

CHIVE AND PORK DUMPLING RECIPE
Prawn and chive dumplings

When it comes to the perfect dumpling, it's all about texture, it's all about flavour and it's all about balance - and to simplify this recipe you can use store brought wonton wrappers. The Chefs' Line

Sadly, when you buy Asian chives in a Chinese grocer, they don't come with instructions. So, I will impart some wise words: never eat them raw and beware: they can stink out your house; they rival even the stinkiest of stinky tofu. 

Oddly enough, when the herbs are raw they aren't as pungent, but you should keep them wrapped in paper in an airtight container before you wash and use them immediately. It's only when Asian chives are cooked and cooled that they produce the strongest smell.

My childhood memories include more than a handful of memorable experiences, shall we say, with Asian chives. After one of mum's regular weekend dinners, where she made one hundred chive dumplings for a family of four, we predictably had leftovers. The next day, I took her dumplings in an airtight lunchbox to school. You will surely sympathise with me when I opened my lunchbox in front of my school friends.

My childhood memories include more than a handful of memorable experiences with Asian chives. 

My sister and I always wondered why she didn't caution us about the Asian chives' smell, but she didn't think negatively about it. In her words: "很香", which loosely translates to, "it smells delicious".

I was not the only one to fall victim to the odour of my mum's chive dumplings, aka Pandora's (lunch) box. I still remember the time my dad heated leftover chive dumplings in a microwave for lunch at his workplace. As he did, it unleashed the wondrous smell of chives for all. Let me just tell you, the smell of them when reheated is like the Hulk, so I do count myself lucky in comparison.

But despite the drama associated with their aroma, they really are delicious and something I always request when I'm home in Australia.

There may've been times when I could not bear them, such as when my mum's friends would drop their homegrown ones off to us or when we ate chive eggs for breakfast, boiled chive dumplings for lunch and pan-fried chive dumplings for dinner. However, ultimately I do have an affection for them. After all, much like Century-old eggs and matured French cheese, aren't all the best foods ridiculously stinky?

 

CHIVE TALES
Garlic chive kimchi (buchu kimchi)

This garlic chive kimchi doesn’t need fermentation and can be eaten straight away. This dish is often eaten during spring and summer when the garlic chives are in abundance. It goes really well with meat dishes.

Chive cakes (khanom gui chai)

A sweet-savoury chive filling wrapped in a chewy dough made from tapioca flour makes for a popular Thai street food favourite.

Shallot, onion and chive tart

Three different alliums give this creamy tart a lovely range of savoury flavours, while the grainy mustard adds a note of sweetness. Like most savoury egg tarts, it is best eaten warm or at room temperature, rather than piping hot.

Baked salmon and eggs with chives

The salmon breakfast dish provides a healthy omega-3 boost for your brain and circulation, and helps reduce inflammation.