This is one of those dishes that has haunted and taunted my palate for a few years. It’s dead simple, just a handful of ingredients are involved. Unfortunately the main ingredient is a fleeting seasonal vegetable -- garlic scapes that are not often sold in the United States. Slender with a mild sweet garlic flavor, the garlic flower stalks are thinly sliced and then stir-fried with bits of Chinese bacon.
I first had the preparation in October 2009 at the Din Tai Fung at the World Square Shopping Center in Sydney, Australia. It was a great sidekick to an order of xiao long bao Shanghai soup dumplings. The restaurant used the jade colored scapes, which are typically trimmed by farmers to foster bulb growth, per food writer Molly Watson. It was spring in Australia and I took that taste memory back to California, where six months later in 2010, I got to enjoy another spring.
I started looking for garlic scapes at Chinese markets and over the years, have found them a couple of times, once at Ranch 99 in Milpitas, California. The stalks were sold as long thin bundles of 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick green cords. However, I was disappointed by their lackluster flavor. Maybe not enough people buy them or know about them. The ones I’ve found tended to be borderline over the hill. The little stir-fry eluded me.