Bring the spring in, I say, bring it in! We've been experimenting with spring onions 珠蔥 also known as green onions or scallions, trying to find a way to have this essential to Chinese cuisine flavoring unit at hand whenever we need it. I don't know if it's just my luck but, really, almost every time I need spring onions, all the stores are out of it! And if you cook Chinese food, you know as I know that you will always need some spring onion for your dinner dishes, be it a sprinkled garnish, a way to aromatize your oil, or even as the tasty vegetable portion of your stir fry. Which is why, here in Hong Kong, I have never understood why it is so hard to buy spring onion after a certain time of the day. A shake of the head, a shrug of the shoulders...sorry, no spring onions. Urghh...how devastating to that delectable dish that you have in mind for dinner! So that is why we have discovered a way to easily insure ourselves against the abyss that is the lack of spring onion: we have been growing our own spring onions in a jar!
You're probably thinking, duh, why not just grow some in your garden? Well, we would if we had one! We would grow spring onions and little red tomatoes and herbs of all sorts and, oh, how I want a smoke house and a salting cage... But who the heck has a garden in Hong Kong. I remember when I was a little girl, being sent to the little lane that ran behind our big rambling house, near the laundry lines, to pluck some springs of spring onions for my grandma. How lovely it is to have a bit of dirt.
So while I do not have a garden I do have a lot of empty jars. I hate throwing glass jars away, they always seem like they could fit something really neat and delicious inside. So I have a lot of empty jars just waiting...and waiting... (Argh...I wish I was more productive!) So, anyways, lazy bones that I am, this grow your spring onions in a jar method is really terrific. All you need is a jar and some spring onion root bits, you know, the parts you usually toss in the trash. And that's it! (Oh, and some water, of course!)
Buy your usual spring onions (if you can find some, that is) and chop off what you need, leaving the white part and the roots. Use the chopped bits for whatever you need. The white bits with the roots, wash off all dirt and any soft rotten bits, then plonk into a jar with enough water to just cover about 2-3 inches. Change the water every day or so. I like to keep my spring onion jar on the sill of my kitchen window where it makes a nice splash of green and it's easy to remember to change the water.
Look at my spring onions! Just a week and a bit in and it's grown leaps and bounds. Now I can just nip a bit for garnish anytime I want. And that is fantastic because we always need spring onion in some dish or the other and what dish doesn't look better with a bit o' green?
We've been keeping our little jar of spring onions on the sill for a couple of weeks already and it's still growing and giving. The key to the longevity of your jar, I think, is in keeping the water nice and fresh. I hope you all find this idea useful, I know that we are planning to start a second jar of spring onions soon. Let me know what you think!
Tip: If you like to have pretty curls of spring onion, get yourself one of these parallel blade spring onion shredder , they work so well and are so easy to use. Then once you have your shredded spring onions, let them sit in a bowl of iced water for approx. 15 mins or so and they will curl up beautifully.
Recipes that use Spring Onions at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Stir Fry Crabs with Ginger and Scallions 姜葱蟹
Classic Chinese Steamed Fish 清蒸鱼
Chinese Egg Fried Rice 蛋炒飯
Cauliflower Stir Fry- An Exercise in Simplicity 清炒椰菜花