The thin, hollow tubes known as European chives are insipid compared with their Chinese cousins. They all belong to the onion family, which also includes garlic, but the European variety has the mildest, least distinctive flavour. There are three types of Chinese chives - flat, green leaves that look like long blades of grass; delicate, pale yellow chives, which are the same as the first variety, but have been grown without being exposed to light so they don't develop chlorophyll; and flowering chives (pictured), which are sturdy and have a strong flavour. European chives are used mostly as a delicate herb - sprinkled at the last minute over fish or soup, or as part of the bacon, sour cream and chives trio that is often served with baked potatoes. In Chinese cuisine, they are treated more as a vegetable or used as a main ingredient, rather than a garnish or flavouring. When buying chives, they should be bright green (except, obviously, for the yellow variety), with no brown spots. The buds on flowering chives should be tightly closed - if they're starting to open, it indicates they are getting old. Both the flat green and pale yellow chives are delicious with scrambled eggs. Heat oil in a wok and cook the chives (cut in 3cm lengths) with a little salt until they start to wilt. Whisk some eggs with water or a light broth, season with salt and ground white pepper and stir into the chives. Cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs are softly scrambled. Flowering chives are wonderful simply steamed. Cut them into 6cm lengths, keeping the firmer stem ends separate from the middle part and tips. Put the stem ends on a heatproof dish and steam over boiling water. After about three minutes, add the remaining chives to the dish and continue to steam for about five minutes, or until cooked (they should be tender but not limp). Drizzle with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Flowering chives are also delicious with stir-fried prawns or squid. Remove the heads and shells from the prawns; remove the insides and skin from the squid, cut the bodies open and score in a crisscross pattern so they curl when cooked. Slice a mild red chilli diagonally. Heat oil in a wok, add a peeled, lightly crushed clove of garlic and the sliced chilli and cook until fragrant. Add the chives (cut in 6cm lengths) and stir-fry with a little salt for several minutes. Add the prawns or squid, stir-fry briefly then add some fish sauce. Cover with the lid and simmer for two to three minutes, or until the seafood and chives are cooked. Serve immediately.