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What Is Nira Grass?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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Nira grass is a popular herb or green that tastes and looks similar to chives. It is often called Chinese chives because it is used in a variety of Chinese food recipes. In authentic hot and sour soup, nira grass might replace chives or green onions. It’s also used in a variety of stir-fry dishes where it’s fresh, slightly onion taste can add considerable flavor to a dish.

You can find nira grass throughout the year in Asian markets, and sometimes in specialty foods or natural foods stores. It comes in four types. Green nira grass has the strongest flavor, or you may buy yellow nira grass, which is lighter in flavor and color. Two types less common in the US are gau choy fa and gau choy sum, which each feature flower buds at their tips.

With any variant of the grass, you’ll note that the bottom of the grass is tough and may be white in appearance. In general, you should remove the bottom parts, since they don’t cook well and aren’t pleasant in taste. Especially if you plan to toss the grass into salads, you’ll want to remove the grass bottom prior to serving it.

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For extra and unusual flavor, you can add nira grass to soups or stews. You may want to avoid adding the grass to soups or stews until the last few minutes of cooking, since it will cook very quickly. When you’re looking for the most onion flavor, choose dark green grass over the yellow varieties. If you want only light flavor added to a dish, yellow grass is the better choice.

One of the benefits of this green is that it imparts plenty of flavor with few calories. A quarter cup (two ounces or about 56.7 grams) of the chopped green only has 10 calories. This same serving size provides 30% of the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C and 25% of the RDA of Vitamin A. From a nutritional standpoint, this grass is an excellent addition to foods, packing a serious antioxidant punch for very few calories.

Chefs recommend that you should use nira within a day or two of purchase. If you do need to buy it ahead, you can prolong its life in the fridge by wrapping a damp paper towel around the bottom of the grass. Even then, you should probably plan to use the grass within a week of purchase.

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lostosos
Post 5

Where do you buy large quantities of nira grass, chinese leek, chinese chives?

momothree
Post 4

My mother got some nira grass from one of her friends and we thought we would give it a try. We were cooking a good-sized chuck roast that evening and my mom’s friend said that the nira grass would go well with it.

We took the nira grass, washed it good, and then patted it dry. We also bought some shallots to go along with the nira grass. First, we melted some butter in a sauté pan, added the sliced shallots, and let it sauté. We probably let them cook for about 15 minutes to get the shallots soft. The roast was already cooked at this point so we poured the butter and shallot mixture over the roast. Then, we cut the nira grass with scissors on top of it all.

The shallots and nira grass complemented each other very well and the roast was absolutely delicious!

ddljohn
Post 3

@burcinc-- Actually, all of those belong to the same family called Allium or "Amaryllidaceae" which is the more scientific name. This includes, garlic, onion and all leeks, including Chinese leeks.

I understand why it's confusing, because nira grass is called by so many different names- Chinese chives, Chinese leeks, garlic chives, Chinese garlic chives, garlic leeks and so on.

There are subtle differences between different chives/leeks, but the flavor is the greatest hint that they belong to the same family. That's why nira grass has both garlic and onion undertones in its flavor.

As for allergies, your sister might be allergic to nina grass if she's allergic to onion.

burcinc
Post 2

I've accidentally bought Chinese chives thinking that it's the same as regular chives before. Even though they look almost exactly the same, they are not from the same family right?

How about Chinese chives and garlic or onion? Is there any relation there?

I'm curious because I've seen something called "garlic chives" at the Asian store, which looks the same as Chinese chives. Also because I have a sister who is allergic to onion and I'm wondering if she would have an allergic reaction to Chinese chives.

ysmina
Post 1

I dislike the smell of onions but I love the flavor it adds to foods when cooked with it. But to get to the latter part, I have to cut onions first which I hate doing. Ever since I've discovered nira grass, I've completely replaced onion with it in any dish that calls for it.

I especially love adding nira grass to potato salad and stir fries. It's great that it comes in several different varieties too. When I'm using it fresh, like in the potato salad, I use the yellow nira grass because it's milder. I use the green one if it's going to be cooked. It's amazing with stir fried beef or shrimp.

Nira grass is also much gentler on the stomach. Sometimes raw or under-cooked onions cause heartburn and bloating. I've never had that issue with nira.

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