Stir-fried Liver and Garlic Chives

This Japanese Chinese-style recipe features Chinese chives and lovely tender calf’s liver which melts in your mouth with a salty-sweet gingery sauce.

The pretty green chives are sometimes called nira grass or garlic chives, and its Latin name, Allium tuberosum, means it is part of the onion family. It is a perennial plant which grows into clumps of flat straight leaves. Clusters of tiny white flowers appear at the end of summer on round stalks which rise above the clump. The flowers last well into autumn, providing a bright display in garden when many flowers are well past their prime.

Each 6-petaled flower produces a half dozen black triangular seeds in three-lobed pods. New plants readily grow from the seeds, meaning that this plant propagates and spreads easily in gardens. However, it is not an overly invasive plant: over-wintering birds love to eat the seeds!

The leaves taste a little like garlic, but with a gentle flavor. If you buy a bunch in a store, choose bright green leaves. They don’t keep well, so use them quickly before they become slimy. They can be used in stir-fries, soups, and raw salads. The leaves can be chopped and added to omelets or scrambled eggs. Or add them to gyoza fillings with shrimp, pork, and cabbage. They are delicious in the Korean savory pancakes called pajeon.

Stir-Fried Liver and Chinese Chives
Nira-reba Itame

adapted from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 446
serves 1 to 2

Marinating the liver:

  • 7 ounces pork or beef liver, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • (I used calves liver)
  • 2 Tablespoons sake (rice wine vinegar)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sake
  • 1 ½ teaspoons shoyu (soy sauce)
  • pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon potato starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Have a large bowl of ice water at hand. In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the liver until the outside turns pale, about 20 seconds. Drain, and plunge the liver into the cold water. Rinse the liver and drain again. Pat dry with paper towel.
In a bowl, combine the sake, salt, shoyu, and pepper. Add the liver to the bowl, and toss. Add the potato starch and stir gently. Add the sesame oil and stir again. Refrigerate, covered, for 20 minutes.

Preparing the Vegetables and Sauce:

  • 10 ounces Chinese Chives, cut into 2-inch lengths

  • One 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced very thin
  • 2 green onions, white parts only, cut into thin disks
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1 Tablespoon sake
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch combined with 2 teaspoons water

Combine the chicken stock, shoyu, and sugar.

Stir-Frying and Serving:

  • ½ cup vegetable oil plus 1 Tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of ground white pepper
  • Plain white or brown rice

Heat a wok or skillet, and add 1/2 cup oil. Heat to 360°F. Add half the liver and cook until the surface is golden. About 1 to 2 minutes. Remove liver to a plate and partially cook the other half the same way. Set aside.
Remove most of the oil from the skillet, leaving about 3 Tablespoons. Turn the heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the Chinese chives, and stir-fry them until they begin to wilt. About 20 seconds. Remove and reserve.
Add 1 Tablespoon of fresh oil to the skillet and fry the ginger and scallion over low heat for 20 seconds. Increase heat to high. Return the liver to the skillet. Pour in the chicken-stock mixture and toss vigorously for 2 minutes.
Return the chives to the skillet, and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Reduce heat to low. Give the potato starch slurry a stir and add it to the skillet. Stir until the sauce thicken.
Add the sesame oil and pepper, toss. Serve hot with plain white or brown rice.

More information from Tess about this recipe. Click the pictures below.

chinese-chives-2_8443Chinese Liver and Chives

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6 thoughts on “Stir-fried Liver and Garlic Chives

  1. Great! I like your kitchen’s new look especially your header image. When had you changed it?
    Sorry I wasn’t here for long time to know about this change.

  2. I had no idea about the seeds in the garlic chive flowers. I used to enjoy liver as a kid and teen.

    But now it’s limited to European style pate..maybe 1-2 times per yr. I think it’s the smell of blood/look from liver, that I don’t like at this time.

    Anyway, I know of Chinese recipes where one steams the sliced liver in a low dish, after it’s lightly marinated in a bit of oil, sherry and a jot of soy sacue.

  3. Great dish Tess. I used to live in Fukushima and when I first had this I thought, this ain’t Jap food? But it’s a real great dish and a good example of simple homestyle, Tuesday night kinda fare. I love how they use cuts of meat like this, Australians would think this is weird or turn their noses. You can’t beat real culture and 100’s of years of food history. Good one

    • Hi Josh!
      This really is a tasty dish! Thanks for reminding me of it. My mom used to make liver and onions when I was a kid, but she always used the broiler and it usually came out a bit dry and tough. It was not a favorite for any of us kids…

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