Well, scallions, actually.
At least that’s what we always called them at home.
In fact, as far as I can recall, I only started to become aware of the alternative name “spring onion” when I got into far eastern cookery, where it was hardly possible to flick through a cookbook without stumbling across a clutch of recipes that involved spring onions in some shape or form. And even though, technically, the terms scallion and spring onion (and green onion, come to that) all referred to exactly the same vegetable, somehow spring onion seemed a bit fancy-pants to me. Scallions were down-home. Something you’d put in a potato salad. Spring onions were exotic and always turned up with their friends ginger and garlic in spicy Asian dishes. As for green onions – well that was just the name of a tune from the 60’s by Booker T. and the MGs…
After many years of dabbling in Asian-style cookery, though, I notice that I now tend mostly to use the term spring onion, except perhaps during the growing season and with my wellington boots on, when it’s scallions that I fetch from the garden. Go figure. For the sauce described below, however, it’s spring onions all the way.
This recipe is from my first Madhur Jaffrey book – Far Eastern Cookery – the one that started it all for me (in an Asian cookery sense) and came to me by way of my friend CJ. The original recipe, a spring onion sauce for chicken, was one that myself and CJ used to make a lot. The sauce was full of fresh, raw ingredients, while it accompanied chicken that had a big black pepper kick. We adored it. The recipe later fell into disuse after I went down the vegetarian route and was only resurrected much, much later, when I remembered that it was really all about the sauce.
Spring Onion Sauce for Chicken (or Quorn or Tofu or…)
This is a much tweaked and somewhat simplified version of the recipe in Far Eastern Cookery. The sauce, though, is essentially as described in the original, including the unusual addition of coriander stems. The main change is that I didn’t use raw garlic in the sauce but opted to use garlic in the cooked part of the dish instead. I’ve also increased the quantities for the sauce, because I always found myself wanting more!
The Sauce Veg:
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 inch cube fresh ginger
- 2 spring onions
- few stems of fresh coriander
The Sauce Liquid:
- 3 tblsps light soy sauce
- 3 tblsps distilled white vinegar
- 1.5 tblsps tomato ketchup
- 6 tblsps chicken stock or water for the veggie version
- 3 tblsps toasted sesame oil
- 0.5 tsp sugar
The Protein Bit:
- 300g chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces, or use quorn pieces or cubes of tofu for the veggie version
- 1 inch cube fresh ginger
- 1 spring onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tblsp whole black peppercorns
- 2 tblsps light soy sauce
The Sauce Steps:
- Cut the celery into minute dice.
- Cut the spring onions into very fine rounds.
- Peel the ginger, cut into paper-thin slices, then stack the slices and cut first into thin slivers and then into minute dice.
- Hold several coriander stems together and cut crossways into minute pieces – you need about 1 tblsp worth.
- Combine the celery, ginger, spring onion and coriander stems in a bowl. Cover and set aside.
- In another bowl combine the liquid sauce ingredients – soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sesame oil and water or stock – plus the sugar and set aside.
- Using a dry frying pan, toast the peppercorns for a few minutes, then crush using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and set aside (I actually use more peppercorns than the tablespoon I’ve specified here because I like things very peppery – experiment and see what works for you)
- Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat.
- Finely chop the garlic, ginger and slice the spring onion. Add to the pan and stir and fry for a minute or two.
- Add the chicken, quorn or tofu pieces. Stir and fry for 3-4 minutes.
- Add crushed pepper and soy sauce, stir and fry for another few minutes until the pieces are cooked through
- When ready to serve, combine the two bowls of sauce ingredients and pour over the chicken/quorn/tofu. Serve with rice.
- This much feeds about 3 people
- Fry some mushrooms along with the chicken/quorn/tofu
- If you like, and have time, you can marinate the chicken (or tofu) for a couple of hours before cooking, using a mix of the ginger, spring onion, pepper and soy sauce that’s cooked with it above. This is closer to the original recipe.
- Just make the sauce part, add crushed black pepper to taste, and enjoy with rice