The Chinese Chives vegetable ( Kuchay ), Chinese leek, or called its scientific name ‘Allium tubersosum’ is part of the edible flowering plant family. This type of Chives are known for the similar traits to scallions or spring onions, being a perennial plant under the onion family that helps avert pests, which makes them great companions to other garden plants. Compared to the other herbs under the onion family, these have a sweet and mild garlicky taste in contrast to the common chive. Check out the article to find why chives are so beloved in many Southeast Asian recipes.
A Short Introduction
Chinese chives, known by other names like ‘Chinese Leeks’, ‘Oriental garlic’, ‘Asian chives’, ‘Kuchay’, or ‘Garlic Chives’ , is a perennial plant related to scallions, leeks, the Chinese onion, shallots, garlic, and onions. These are native to Shanxi, a province in China where these were grown wildly before being cultivated in the Chou dynasty (around 3,000 years ago). They were grown throughout Asia before spreading to the United States, especially abundant in North America where the Chinese chives seed is readily available. In Australia these are seen more as an invasive weed that spreads rapidly and impacts the environment positively and negatively. These can also be found in mainland Europe.
This ‘Allium tuberosum’ type plant means that ‘Allium’ has edible leaves and flowers, whereas ‘tuberosum’ is under the Allium species where it’s under the wild garlic or wild onion variety. These grow from a fibrous elongated herbaceous perennial bulb, growing leaves that have triangular bases, sprouting upwards showing long dense clusters of slender green grass-like leaves that can reach up to a length of 24 inches. Chives are distinguished by its vibrant slender green leaves, typically chopped a few inches from the roots. Chopped to smaller bits and pieces when used for cooking, similar to scallions as they have a similar taste to garlic and leeks.
These might be used as an ornamental plant, but are much more commonly used as herbs, traditional medicine, or replacement for leafy vegetables. Found sold in bundles at grocery stores, wet markets, but are also found in many household backyards or mini home gardens, growing chives in pots or old water bottles. In the culinary world, the green stalks and flowers are used in recipes like omelets, savory pancakes, salads, Chinese chives can also be found in soups, the popular Chinese chives dumplings, sauces, with potatoes, fish and or beef dishes.
Chinese Chives Benefits ( Kuchay Benefits )
These types of chives or any variety of chives are a great source of fiber and nutrients. While many have just used chives as a garnish, there are actually many dishes that can be done to fully show off the flavor of these long slender leaves. Chinese chives’ nutritional value comes from a serving size of around 1 tablespoon or more daily, great for the body namely for Vitamin A, C,K, iron, beta carotene, and thiamine that helps the body’s immunity and keep it functioning better. Here are some examples on how consuming chives can help you :
- For brain health, being abundant in components such as folate and choline is needed for better cognitive performance. This helps improve the brain’s memory and keep from having Alzheimers.
- Keeps the bones strong, these have a good amount of VItamin K which helps with bone density. This vitamin, still being studied, is always added into supplements for osteoporosis in Asia.
- May prevent Cancer, similar to other alliums, there are compounds in chives that can help avoid and fight against cancer cells.
- It can improve heart health, reducing blood pressure and bad cholesterol. It also has a compound called ‘quercetin’ that prevents arterial plaque, which means it can lower the risk of stroke.
- Has a good amount of fiber, which makes them Diabetic friendly. Fiber helps control blood sugar. In addition, these have flavonoids that help treat or keep you from having type 2 diabetes.
- Because it has fiber, it’s also great for keeping the gut healthy. They also treat kidney stones, dissolving calcium oxalate crystals.
- Being one of the highest antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. They protect the body from the growth of foreign objects, preventing viral infections.
- Are said to improve sleep. Being rich in choline that stimulates sleep and may help with insomnia.
Chinese chives substitute
- Chinese chives vs chives – Chinese chives grow a bit longer, and unlike normal chives that are hollow. These are flat and more garlicky than onion-like in flavor.
- Green Onions vs Chinese Chives – when looking for something similar visually, then green onions may be your best choice. In terms of taste, similar to regular chives, green onions taste more like onions while the other taste more like garlic. You can also use scallions, shallots, or leeks as an alternative.
- The closest substitute is garlic, but without the green coloring and fiber. In terms of taste, garlic is stronger while the Chinese chives are milder.
- When using dried chives, do note that they tend to have a more concentrated taste compared to its fresh counterpart.
Chinese Chives (Kuchay) a quick harvest at home
Chinese Chives in Tagalog, ‘Kuchay’ sometimes spelled ‘Kuchai’ or ‘Kustay’ got its name from the Chinese term ‘jiu cai’. Many Filipinos do plant them in small pots or bottles in their mini garden or balcony, not just for consumption but also as an insect repellant. They grow very easily, with harvesting it being just a quick ‘snip’ a few inches from the roots, it takes a week or so just for it to regrow back to the same length. How to cook Chinese chives (Kuchay Recipes)? You can find them in many Asian restaurants added into dishes like Chinese dumplings or Kuchay dumpling recipes, in stir-fried food, omelets, Korean and Chinese pancakes, topped over baked potatoes, mixed in egg drop soups or any stews, using it to substitute leafy vegetables or leeks, scallions, and other herbs.