Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
Garlic scapes (also called garlic shoots) are usually considered a spring vegetable, but they are available most of the year in Hong Kong - probably because so much garlic is grown on the mainland. The scapes are long, slender, green stems that get trimmed off so that the plant's energy can be concentrated on growing the bulbs. Raw scapes taste very garlicky but, when cooked, they become sweet.
Garlic scape with orzo "risotto"
Orzo is a type of pasta that looks very much like rice. If you serve this dish to guests, they'll probably think, on looking at it, that it is rice, but the slippery texture will give the game away. I cook it in a manner similar to that of risotto - by adding the liquid slowly. You need to add just enough of the stock so the texture is slightly fluid, like risotto.
Buy fresh shrimp with the heads and shells on, because they're used to make the stock.
600 grams medium-sized fresh shrimp (with bodies about 8cm long)
About 100 grams unsalted butter, divided
200 grams garlic scapes
2 shallots, thinly sliced
A pinch of saffron threads (optional)
300 grams orzo
60ml dry white wine
Fine sea salt, rough-flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and put them in a saucepan containing one litre of water. Place the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil.
Cover the pan with the lid, turn the heat to very low and simmer for 30 minutes. Pour the stock into a colander set over a clean saucepan, pressing on the heads and shells to extract as much flavour as possible. Put the stock over a low flame and keep it hot.
Devein the shrimp by cutting a slit down the back of each one and pulling out the digestive tract.
Cut the garlic scapes into 1.5cm pieces. Heat 30 grams of butter in a skillet or wok, add the garlic scapes and a sprinkling of salt, and stir-fry until they're about three-quarters cooked - they should be bright green but not quite tender. Put them in a bowl.
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 30 grams of butter then add the shallot and saffron threads. Cook over a low flame until the shallot is soft. Add the orzo and stir constantly for about a minute. Turn the heat to medium, add the white wine and stir until absorbed. Add about 250ml of the stock and stir until absorbed, then add another 250ml. After the second addition has been absorbed into the orzo, add the stock in smaller increments of about 100ml or less at a time. When the orzo is almost fully cooked, stir in the shrimp and garlic scapes. Add the stock only as needed (you might not need all of it), until the orzo is just tender but not mushy, the texture is slightly runny and the shrimp and garlic scapes are cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in 40 grams of butter. Serve immediately by ladling into shallow bowls, then sprinkle lightly with rough-flaked salt.
Dry-fried garlic scapes
I got the idea for this recipe from making dry-fried string beans, a dish sometimes made with Chinese long beans, which have a slight resemblance to garlic scapes.
400 grams garlic scapes
2 heaped tsp Chinese dried shrimp
80ml minced pork
5ml soy sauce
5ml rice wine
¼ tsp sugar
A pinch each of salt and white pepper
A teaspoon of cornstarch
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 small piece of cha choi (Sichuan preserved mustard vegetable), about 3cm in diameter
Cooking oil, as needed
Rinse the shrimp briefly, then put them in a bowl and add enough warm water to cover. Leave them to soak for about 30 minutes or until pliable, then drain them, reserving the soaking liquid. Cut the shrimp into small pieces.
Mix the pork with the soy sauce, rice wine, 5ml of cooking oil, the sugar, salt, pepper and cornstarch.
Rinse the cha choi, then pat it dry with paper towels. Chop it finely. Cut the garlic scapes into 4cm pieces.
Pour cooking oil to a depth of about 6cm in a wok, then place it over a high flame. When the oil is hot, add a large handful of the garlic scapes and stir-fry until they're blistered and starting to soften. Use a slotted spatula to remove them from the oil then drain them on paper towels. Cook the remaining garlic scapes the same way. Pour the oil from the wok, but do not wash it.
Set the wok over a high flame, add the halved garlic cloves and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the pork and stir-fry until the meat is no longer pink. Add the cha choi, shrimp, garlic scapes and about 50ml of the shrimp soaking liquid. Simmer, stirring often, until the meat is cooked and the mixture is moist, but with no excess liquid. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary, then serve with steamed white rice.