Oriental Onions

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

oriental onions used in China, Japan, and to some extent in SE Asia, are mostly varieties of Allium fistulosum: the species name means ‘tubular’. These onions never form bulbs; instead, there is a cluster of thickened stem bases like a closely packed bunch of spring onions, which they resemble when young in both appearance and flavour. As they grow older, they keep the same shape, simply becoming larger and coarser.

A. fistulosum, as the senior member of the onion family in China, has a name of a single character, cong (chung in Cantonese). These are general names for all onions, modified as suitable for other kinds: for example, the round European onion is called in Cantonese yeung chung tau, meaning foreign onion head. The Japanese name for the species is negi.