韭菜盒子 (jiu cai he zi), or chive boxes, are another childhood snack, of which I seem to have a lot of. What can I say? My mom spoiled me with Chinese food. There are so many variations of chive boxes. I’ve seen them as big as a dinner plate or as small as these guys here. Like I said in my dumplings post, one thing I love about Chinese cuisine is the numerous variations and regional styles. Every family has their own way of making dumplings, and I’ve found that the same could be said for these chive boxes. My friend’s mom makes the skin with boiling water and ends up with a lovely translucent, soft skin. Another family I know makes them larger, without any leaveners so that the skin is more crispy and thin. My mom actually uses self rising flour to create impossibly fluffy clouds of skin with a crispy exterior, and that is what I grew up on. For this recipe, I altered it by using chemical leaveners. I didn’t have self-rising flour on hand, nor do I use it much, so why buy a bag of self-rising flour when I could just substitute it with all-purpose and baking powder?
You can order these at a lot of Chinese restaurants. I actually ordered one at Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston Chinatown, but I was surprised. I see yet another variation: it was huge! Like 3 of mine laid side by side. It was stuffed with the same stuff, plus dried shrimp, but the skin was about 1 mm thick. It was crispy and flaky. It was good, but overall, I think I prefer mine: fat, soft, pillowy yet crispy.
Start out by making the dough. It’s flour, baking powder, salt, and water. That’s it.
Chives can be found in Chinese supermarkets. A quick word of warning, they can have a strong odor. Once you make your thin layer of eggs, chop it up into little pieces.
Not pictured, but equally important is the vermicelli. Soak it in hot water to loosen it up and then chop it into little pieces. You’ll be mixing chives, vermicelli, and eggs together. Do not add the salt until you are ready to wrap. Salt will cause water to seep out.
Finish up by frying directly on a non-stick pan.
Just writing this post up made me think about making these again. Thanks, mom, for the wonderful recipe as always! They’re the perfect snack, and I absolutely love them. There’s nothing more cheerful and heartwarming than the sight of my mom and a piling plate of puffy chive boxes next to her. Nothing.
RECIPE: 韭菜盒子 Jiu Cai He Zi (Chive Boxes)
2 cups flour
3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz garlic chives, cut very finely
3 eggs, beaten
1 oz vermicelli, soaked in warm water until soft
1 tsp salt – add at the very end
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1| Prepare dough: Stir dry ingredients together. Add water gradually until it forms a workable dough. If it is too dry, add more water. Knead until soft, not sticky, and bounces back to the touch.
2| Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.
3| Heat up a non-stick pan and brush lightly with oil. Swirl 1/2 of the beaten egg mixture across pan so that a thin layer is cooking. Once cooked, gently remove and repeat with the other half. Cut into thin pieces. When vermicelli is soft, cut the noodles into small pieces as well
4| Wrap dumplings (step-by-step photos above)
5| Lightly coat both sides of dumpling with oil. Lay on a non-stick skillet. Pour about 1/4 cup water into the pan – about a 1cm layer of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer until all water has cooked off. When there is just a thin layer of water left, remove cover and reduce heat to the smallest fire at low. Fry both sides until browned.