This garlic scapes stir-fry is the next seasonal dish you’ll want to try this spring!
Over the next few weeks, you may see garlic scapes at your local farmer’s market or Chinese grocery store. They have long, curly green stems with small buds. This is an easy and delicious way to put those garlic scapes to good use!
What are garlic scapes?
Garlic scapes have a mild, sweet taste. They’re the stems and flower bud of garlic bulbs—specifically the hardneck variety. I learned at our local farm stand that only hardneck garlic varieties grow scapes.
Soft neck garlic is what you usually see in the store—they grow larger bulbs with more cloves, but don’t yield scapes.
That said, it’s important to harvest garlic scapes early, before they flower and before they turn thick and tough. Look for garlic scapes that are tender and snap easily.
They get trimmed around the end of spring and early summer to stimulate bulb growth, and are a popular ingredient for Chinese stir-fries!
We loved buying them in Beijing from our local market. You can find them in farmers’ markets and Chinese grocery stores in late spring and early summer.
Eat them seasonally, and buy them when you see them, because they’re available for only a narrow window of time!
How to Prepare Garlic Scapes
Start by rinsing the garlic scapes. They may look clean, but it’s best to give them a wash.
Next, you’ll need to trim them. Garlic scapes can be woody and fibrous at the base, so you’ll want to cut off the base. Run your fingers along the base of the stem and bend it until you reach the point where it naturally snaps. This works fine for scapes that have been picked early and are relatively tender.
You can also use a knife to cut the pieces from the base until you feel where the base becomes tender. It’s okay if it’s a bit imprecise, as garlic scapes will become more tender after cooking.
As for the top of the scape, I usually trim the tops and split them before cooking. If they are larger and tougher, you can discard them, but they are flavorful and add an attractive contrast in look and texture.
How to Cook Garlic Scapes
Stir-frying garlic scapes with pork or any other meat is the most popular preparation in Chinese cooking. They can be used as a milder replacement for garlic, scallions, leeks, or Chinese chives.
As you can see, the pork is cut into thin strips, to mimic the shape of the scapes.
Depending upon the tenderness of the garlic scapes and your own personal preferences, cooking times can vary.
Cook them for a shorter time if they are tender and snap easily when bent. If they are a bit tough, cook them longer and make sure you give them a good sear when stir-frying.
Here are some other tips for cooking garlic scapes:
- Dice and add them to any fried rice dish, as they are an excellent complement to the usual chopped onion and scallions. Try adding some chopped garlic scapes to up the game on your Chicken Fried Rice or Egg Fried Rice.
- Toss them into any stir-fry or Lo Mein to give your dish a little extra character.
- Use them in the food processor or blender to make salad dressings, aioli, or sauces.
If you’re not making this garlic scapes stir-fry, you can also sauté or grill them in olive oil and salt and pepper, similar to our Blistered Shishito Peppers.
Ok, on with the recipe!
In a medium bowl, add the pork, cornstarch, water, Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, and vegetable oil. Mix well and set aside for 20 minutes.
(For more details on preparing and marinating pork for stir-fries, see our post on how to velvet pork.)
Place the wok over high heat until it is just starting to smoke. Spread 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil around the perimeter of the wok. Spread the pork on the wok in one layer, and sear for 1 minute on each side.
Remove the pork from the wok, and set aside. (For more tips on searing meat, see Judy’s post on how to keep food from sticking to your wok.)
Add ½ tablespoon oil to the wok. Add the dried chilies and ginger. Cook for 10 seconds.
Ad carrots, and garlic scapes. Stir-fry over medium high heat for 1 minute to give the scapes a good sear. Add the Shaoxing wine. Continue to stir-fry for another 20 seconds.
Add the chicken stock or water, and increase the heat to high.
Push everything into the middle of the wok, cover, and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the cover and stir the vegetables around the super hot perimeter of the wok to create some wok hei.
Next, add the cooked pork and its juices…
…along with the ground white pepper, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Continue to stir-fry at high heat for another 20 seconds. Give it a taste and re-season according to your own taste.
Add the cornstarch slurry, being sure to pour it directly into the standing liquid, and stir-fry for another 15 seconds. Transfer to a serving plate. Served your garlic scapes stir-fry with steamed rice.