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.
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.