This is the signature flavor of the Shanghai metropolitan area, along China’s central Pacific coast. In fact, nothing says “Shanghai” like scallions. But this iconic seasoning is more than just raw or cooked scallions, for the green and white parts are slowly toasted in oil to turn them nutty and enticing. Once the scallions are fully browned, drain off the oil and use the crispy bits as a scrumptious garnish on noodles or rice. This oil should be clear, with only the tiniest motes of toasted scallions floating around. Read the full article on Chinese mother sauces here. —Madame Huang
Clean and trim the scallions, and pat them dry (this is important, since you don’t want them to spatter in the oil). Then, slice them into either thin rounds or at an angle into long, thin ovals.
Line a plate with a paper towel and place it next to the stove, along with a slotted spoon. Set a wok with the oil in it over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to shimmer, add a few pieces of the scallion. What you want is for the onions to gently bubble, so adjust the heat as needed and then add the rest of the scallions. Stir them every minute or so, letting them slowly cook and giving them a chance to release their fragrance and gradually dry out. As soon as they start to smell toasty, and a few begin to brown, stir them almost constantly so they brown evenly.
Once almost all of the onions are light brown and crispy, remove them from the oil with the slotted spoon and place them on the paper towel. Take the wok off the heat and serve, if you’re going to use it immediately; otherwise, let it cool and pour the oil into a squeeze bottle or jar. There should be only the tiniest specks of scallion in this clear, greenish sauce. The fried scallions can be used as a garnish for whatever you like. Refrigerate both the oil and the fried onions if you are not using them up right away.
Carolyn Phillips is a food writer, scholar, and artist. She is the author of the fully illustrated All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China (McSweeney’s + Ten Speed Press, August 2016) and The Dim Sum Field Guide: A Taxonomy of Dumplings, Buns, Meats, Sweets, and Other Specialties of the Chinese Teahouse (Ten Speed Press, August 2016). Her work has appeared in such places as Best Food Writing 2015, Lucky Peach, Gastronomica, Buzzfeed, Alimentum, Huffington Post, Food52, Zester Daily, and at the 2013 MAD Symposium in Copenhagen. She and her husband were cultural consultants on the third Ghostbusters movie, her weekly blog is Madame Huang's Kitchen (MadameHuang.com), she Tweets as @madamehuang, and Instagrams as @therealmadamehuang.
Carolyn’s art has appeared everywhere from museums and galleries to various magazines and journals to Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas series. She worked for over a decade as a professional Mandarin interpreter in the federal and California state courts, lived in Taiwan for eight years, translated countless books and articles, and married into a Chinese family more than 30 years ago.