Gai Lan, or Chinese Broccoli, was one of the few vegetables I learnt to eat as a kid. My dad would pick out the tender stems for me to eat and I would quietly enjoy them with steamed white rice. He knew I didn't like any vegetables that were leafy and fibrous, but those thick and tender Gai Lan stems were sweet and delicious. I have yet to get my own kids to eat anything green other than broccoli and peas, but perhaps next time.
This vegetable is commonly served in Chinese restaurants, especially during Yum Cha when the yumcha ladies would push the stainless steel carts billowing with steam from the boiling water used to blanch these vegetables. And then there are the little bundles of gai lan arranged on the shelf, ready to be cooked to order. I must admit that when someone at the table orders this, I always try to avoid picking the thick long stems. I can't understand how anyone could manage to eat them with a pair of chopsticks and fit a whole 5-inch long stem of gai lan into the mouth, as sometimes, the stems can be a little tough to bite into.
Gai lan is one of those vegetables, just like broccoli, that can keep in the fridge for at least a week. As the stems and leaves are relatively thick and "strong", they don't wilt as easily as other leafy vegetables. The easiest way to prepare gai lan is simply to blanch them and serve them with a drizzle of oyster sauce. Quick and easy!
Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce
1 bunch gai lan, washed and cut into 3.5-inch lengths
Pinch of salt, sugar and some vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp premium oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce mixed with 1/2 tsp sugar
Dash of pepper
1 1/2 tbps peanut oil
Crispy fried shallots (optional)
Bring a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt, sugar and a few drops of vegetable oil. Blanch the stems first for 2-3 minutes or until tender to your liking. Remove the stems, drain and place on a serving plate. Then add the leaves to the boiling water for about 30 seconds until it turns a dark vibrant green. Remove with a pair of tongs, gently shake off the water and place them on the plate. Drizzle with oyster sauce, soy sauce and add pepper to taste.
Heat up the peanut oil in a small pan, then fry the garlic until lightly browned. Remove and pour the hot oil over the vegetables (this will heat up the oyster sauce at the same time), and scatter the garlic all over. Top with crispy fried shallots if used. Toss lightly before serving with steamed white rice.
- Blanching any type of green vegetables in boiling water with added salt, sugar and oil gives the vegetables a vibrant green colour.
- When blanching vegetables, start with the stems first as these take longer compared to the leaves.