Ingredient Highlight: Scallions

If you told ten-year-old me that I’d one day be writing about scallions and sharing how I like to eat them, I would have said you were out of your mind. Scallions? Me? Like, actually eating them?

The ONLY food item I would ever willingly eat with scallions in them as a kid were scallion pancakes. Otherwise, I would either try to pick out the scallions or just not eat the dish altogether. I cry a little inside now, thinking about all the delicious food I must have missed out on, all because of some measly scallions. Fortunately, I’ve since grown older and wiser and I now heartily endorse scallions.

What is it?

This Masterclass article defines scallions as “fresh young onions”, though judging by the number of Google searches for “scallion vs. green onion”, “scallion vs. shallots”, and “scallion vs. chives”, I’d say they clearly cause a lot of confusion about what they really are. Fortunately, I did everyone the favor of Googling and I can say with confidence, once and for all, that scallions and green onions are indeed the same thing, while shallots and chives are completely different. (Honestly, if you thought scallions were the same as shallots and chives, you probably need your tastebuds checked…)

This is what you’re looking for, folks! (Photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash)

How I like to eat it:

  • In scallion pancakes (duh)
  • In ramen and noodle soups
  • In instant ramen (a fresh handful will upgrade it so much more than the dried stuff ever will)
  • Stir-fried into almost any meat dish with Asian flavors
  • Paired with sesame oil (if a dish calls for sesame oil, you better believe I’ll throw in scallions too)

Pro Tip: To avoid soggy, half-wilted scallions in your fridge, chop them all up and then freeze them in a container or a ziplock bag. One of my aunts taught me this trick and it is SUPER handy when you’re short on time or just want to boil up some ramen without doing extra prep work. Just take out the frozen scallions a few minutes before you need them so they can thaw out a bit, then use a spoon to scoop out a small handful and throw them into the pot. Instant ramen upgrade!

Try this: Tomato Egg Drop Soup

To make a potful that can serve up to 4 people, you’ll need:

  • 2-3 large tomatoes, cut in wedges
  • 2-3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 stalks of scallions, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste (I don’t typically measure my salt but if I had to guess, I’d say anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 tablespoon works)
  • Sesame oil, drizzled in at the end

This soup was consistently one of my favorites growing up. Unlike the classic egg drop soups served in restaurants that had thin pieces of egg swimming in a thickened broth, my mom’s version had nice, hearty egg chunks in a mostly clear broth reddened by the tomatoes. The key is to cook the tomatoes down until they’re falling apart and have released their juices.

To start, bring a pot of water to a boil and throw in the tomatoes. To avoid overflowing, reduce the heat to medium or medium-high. Throw in half of the green onions so that the flavors begin melding with that of the tomatoes as they cook. Once the tomatoes are soft and the skins start peeling, add in the salt. Lower the heat to low and slowly pour in the eggs. Stir briefly, but avoid overdoing it as you want to have some nice chunks in there. When the eggs start solidifying, turn off the heat, throw in the rest of the scallions, drizzle in some sesame oil, and enjoy!

To make the soup heartier, you can throw in some soft tofu, leafy vegetables like bok choy, or some dried seaweed (wakame works best here).

Final notes:

Scallions may seem like they’re used as just a garnish most of the time, but trust me when I say that they can really heighten the flavor profiles of dishes, particularly in Asian cuisine. Take the soup recipe for example— I have made it without scallions before and while it was still tasty, there was definitely something lacking. When you go full scallion, there’s just no going back.

Sometimes when I find myself going through scallions particularly fast, I’ll save the ends that have nice roots and plop them in a small cup of water. Assuming it’s next to a brightly lit window and it’s not wintertime, I typically start seeing regrowth as soon as the next day. It’s one of the easiest ways to get another life out of your scallions. Just make sure to change the water every few days or it’ll start getting cloudy and cause the roots to rot. (Been there, done that. I don’t suggest trying it.)

While my knowledge and familiarity with scallion usage are by and large in Chinese cooking, it is by no means the only way to enjoy them. There are plenty of other regional cuisines that make great use of scallions too. If you have a favorite dish that features scallions, please share in the comments!