THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Green onion or scallion?


THE MIGHTY ALLIUMS — Ginger Green Onion Sauce is just one of the recipes that call for scallions. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALIn the 50th, we normally refer to the top of Allium chinense as green onions, though the rest of the United States refers to them as scallions. Their culinary preparations typically consist of using the white bottoms near the root, whereas in Hawai‘i, we primarily use the green tops. And while I normally try to highlight the nutritional value of foods, with green onions or scallions, it’s all about the flavor.

The Allium Family
The Allium family primarily consists of the Allium cepa or bulb/round onions (when harvested young, they are known as spring onions); Calcot which are planted as bulb onions but harvested before they start forming bulbs primarily in Catalonia, Spain; Allium cepa aggregatum or shallots; and Allium fistulosum or Welsh onions, which resemble fatter versions of the common green onion or scallion.

Given the chance, all members of the family will start sprouting green stalks, though they are rarely seen in bulb onions and shallots, as these are left to dry after they’re unearthed. That’s also why round onions and shallots have that papery sheath covering the outer layers. However, many years ago when I was working at Kaiser Permanente, someone left a round onion in the lunchroom refrigerator and because of the ambient humidity in the produce drawer, it started to sprout a green top that grew to more than a foot long before a supervisor tossed the onion in the garbage bin.

The white parts of spring onions have a culinary application in the Motherland, namely as rakkyo or pickled spring onion bulbs.

I watched an episode of “No Reservations” where Anthony Bourdain is invited to a calçotada, a Catalan tradition where newly harvested green onions are bunched in large bundles then charred over the flames of burning, dried grape vines then rolled in newspaper to steam. After removing the charred outer layer, the calcot are then dipped in Romesco sauce made from roasted red peppers, Marcona almonds, hazelnuts, stale bread and sherry vinegar. Of course, noshing on those calcot seemed a lot more appealing as guests were also enjoying Spanish red wine directly from a porrón, a glass wine pitcher. Therefore, I tried to replicate that experience by purchasing Tokyo negi (green onion) from our local Marukai Wholesale Mart, charing them over my hibachi then placing them in a zip-top bag to steam. I even sampled the negi with my homemade Romesco sauce and drank Rioja wine directly from a porrón, though I must say, those Tokyo negi set me back $7.99 a pound.

The Green Tops

THE MIGHTY ALLIUMS — Ginger Green Onion Sauce is just one of the recipes that call for scallions. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Other than garnishing saimin or ramen, one of my favorite green onion applications is from that simple cold Chinese sauce that accompanies steamed chicken, ginger and green onion. I previously placed roughly chopped, peeled fresh ginger and about two bunches of roughly chopped green onion in my food processor with a little salt and white pepper. While the processor was running, I’d drizzle plain vegetable oil into the mixture until it reached a thick sauce consistency. I’d use this “sauce” as a spread for sandwiches, used it in place of red sauce on a pizza or simply mixed it with mayonnaise for dipping chips. However, I now blitz the solids along with salt and white pepper in a food processor to the desired consistency, then place everything in a metal mixing bowl and drizzle hot vegetable oil over the ginger and green onions to sizzle the mixture. The hot oil releases a lot more flavor essences than simply using cold oil. And since I now have that ANOVA sous vide oven, I can cook chicken breasts to the perfect, tender consistency and enjoy it drizzled with ginger and green onion sauce to my heart’s content.

My Favorite Scramble
As you probably know by now, I’m primarily a runny egg yolk guy, whether it’s sunny side, poached or soft boiled. I even have it raw over steaming hot rice. But I do enjoy one specific type of scrambled application: whole eggs beaten with softened butter, chopped green onions and a touch of salt and pepper. There’s something about the richness of butter, silkiness of scrambled eggs and a touch of herbaceousness from the green onions that, given a chance, can allow me to finish this type of scramble from a whole carton of eggs. Of course, I relent and share the other half, but if I had a vial of prescription ezetimibe, which blocks dietary cholesterol absorption, who knows?

The Newest Application
One of my latest favorite green onion applications is something you’ll find at either Chinese (cong you bing) or Korean (pajeon) restaurants, the green onion pancake. Years ago, I would have considered “The Joy of Cooking” my culinary Bible. However, in this electronic age, the Serious Eats Website is my new culinary standard. Their Website features their version of the dish, which creates crispy green onion pancakes more akin to the Chinese version. Go to their Website if you want to create this crispy version of green onion pancakes:

Not Fresh but Still a Pantry Staple
While I may not always have fresh green onions in my produce bin, I always have the dried version on hand to add to simmered Asian dishes or saimin. I used to purchase bottled green onions, either from the old Shirokiya or the Asian section in local supermarkets, but haven’t seen it for many years. I then found the dried Asian Mirepoix consisting of dried green onions, minced garlic and ginger bottled by Williams Sonoma, but they discontinued the product several years ago. The Zatarain brand can be found on Amazon, but I find their brand to brown even if kept in the refrigerator. Therefore, my new standby product is also found in supermarkets or on the Internet, and maintains its flavor and color if it’s refrigerated — the Litehouse brand!

Or if you absolutely need fresh green onions on hand at a moment’s notice:

Though all this discussion about green onions has me dreaming about my own calcotada and since it’s been more than 10 years since I highlighted this recipe — in fact, it was published by the Nichi Bei Times, I’ll highlight it again in case you want to fire char your own green onions to sample with Romesco sauce …

Romesco Sauce

Romesco Sauce. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

2 large, dried Guajillo chile, seeded
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup skinless almonds, preferably Marcona
2 inch thick baguette, toasted and roughly torn
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 plum tomatoes — peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
2 roasted red peppers (roast your own or from a jar)
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small heatproof bowl, cover the ancho with hot tap water and soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast the hazelnuts and almonds for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned (frequently shake skillet or nuts will burn). Let the hazelnuts cool, then transfer them to a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. In a food processor, combine the ancho with the hazelnuts, almonds, toasted baguette and garlic, and process to a smooth paste.

Add the tomatoes, roasted red pepper and vinegar and puree. With the machine on, slowly pour in the 1/4 to 1/2 cup (depends how runny you want it) of olive oil and process until blended and smooth. Scrape the Romesco sauce into a bowl and season with salt and black pepper.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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