Negi (Allium fistulosum)
Succulent, fresh and fragrant – negi is a staple of washoku, cultivated in Japan since antiquity and found in nearly every traditional Japanese dish.
Growing long and thick in deep rich soil (often over 3 feet in length), Negi closely resembles a European leek, distinguished by its long, sleek white stalks and hollow green tops. Compared to European leek, the key differences are their layers and flavors. Like an onion, Negi has a core in the middle with layers to cover it, and that core is juicy and flavourful when cooked.
Negi is rarely grown outside Japan, but is gradually becoming a specialty crop throughout regions of Hawaii and California.
When prepared raw, negi is a great source of allicin – a compound that boosts the immune system by improving circulation and reducing inflammation. It also enables vitamin B1 absorption from meat or fish when paired together.
It is traditionally said that a “negi compress” is a popular home remedy for the common cold. By wrapping raw negi in a cloth around the neck, the allicin breaks down into diallyl sulfide which is said to be effective in alleviating sinus congestion and throat soreness.
Cooking with Negi
Boasting a garlic-like aroma and sweet, earthy flavor profile, negi is used to bring out the savory notes in meat, fish and vegetable dishes without overpowering them. This onion variety is mild enough to eat raw, with a tender, almost-creamy interior that can withstand long cooking times, making it ideal for grilling.
Traditionally served as part of the Negima Yakitori, grilled negi pairs well with meats such as seared steak, pork chops and poultry. Negi can be substituted for leeks in pot roasts, onion tarts, potato gratins and casseroles for a hearty, slightly sweet flavor.
Negi is used as aromatics – perfect for sprinkling over udon, ramen and soba and garnishing. Use negi as you would scallions or green onions in omelets, sauces and sautés, and as a topping for pizzas, soups and salads.