Learn How to Cook Chinese Broccoli in Soup, Stir Fry and Salad 如何料理芥兰菜

Learn how to cook Chinese broccoli in a variety of ways. In soups, stir fries, salads.

The Chinese broccoli is a green leafy vegetable with thick flat leaves with thick round stems. The texture of the stem is similar to broccoli. The leaves can be quite tough and bitter. Sizes can vary.

Chinese broccoli is the common English name for Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra. The Chinese name is 芥兰 pronounced jie lan in Chinese and gai lan in Cantonese. Gai lan is a more common name in Southeast Asia.

Gai lan contains high levels of carotene and Vitamin C. Regular consumption can help with lowering cholesterol and enhancing cardiovascular health.

Chinese broccoli is suitable for everyone, especially pregnant ladies. It helps to trigger appetite, prevent constipation and anaemia. It contains higher levels of calcium and potassium, which are important for foetal development. Adding Chinese broccoli into baby food can support the digestive system and Vitamin C supplementation.

It is also important in geriatric nutrition. The various vitamins, minerals and trace elements in Chinese broccoli assist in lowering cholesterol, cardiovascular health, eye care and hydration.

When choosing gai lan, pick the ones that have dark green leaves with glossy stems. Avoid those with yellowing leaves and limp stems. It is also better to choose the smaller ones unless you are planning to make creamed soup or chop up the vegetables.

The cooking video below explains how to select Chinese broccoli.

How to Cut Chinese Broccoli

Check the bottom of the stems. If they are  dry and splitting, remove by slicing the bottoms off. 

The stems of the Chinese broccoli can be thick and should be peeled before using. Remove the leaves from the stems. Peel the outer layers using a peeler. Cut them into bite-sized pieces. 

The leaves also have smaller stems. Cut these off and peel the outer layers if necessary. Cut the leaves into smaller pieces. Remove any yellow or wilted parts. 

Soak all in a large colander, wash and rinse thoroughly. Drain for use. 

Gai Lan Recipes 芥兰菜食谱

Common cooking techniques for Chinese broccoli include soup, blanching and stir-frying.

Common complaints is that the leaves can be bitter and the stems tough.

Chinese broccoli has a slight bitter tone and can taste bitter if overcooked. The leaves can be large and people might over-estimate the cooking time needed. 

Blanching only take about 2 minutes. 

The outer layer of the stems can be fibrous. Peel and retain only the tender inner parts. 

When stir-frying, the leaves only need 30 seconds. So cook the stems first followed by the leaves.  

Here are some gai lan recipes for your consideration. 

Gai Lan Soup With Assorted Meatballs

Chinese broccoli soup is rarer because there are more popular vegetables for Chinese soups. 

The cooking video below features a gai lan clear soup recipe using an assortment of meatballs. 

Vegetarian Chinese Broccoli Cream Soup

Since Chinese broccoli stems taste like broccoli, it is possible to use it in a cream soup. The following vegetarian recipe uses 3 types of Chinese vegetables as well as mushrooms. It makes a big pot of soup. 

Ingredients

  • 600g Chinese broccoli
  • 600g broccoli
  • 600g napa cabbage
  • 250g button mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 800ml water or vegetable stock
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cut and wash all the vegetables and mushrooms into smaller pieces for easy cooking
  2. Heat up the olive oil in a deep pot and stir fry the mushrooms and napa cabbage
  3. When these are soft, add the water and bring it to a boil
  4. Add the broccoli and Chinese broccoli
  5. Cook till soft
  6. Blend them to desired consistency in a blender or by using a hand whisk
  7. Stir in the coconut milk
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste
  9. Garnish with some washed goji berries

Blanched Chinese Broccoli

Ingredients 

  • 300g Chinese broccoli
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Big pot of water
  • Cooking oil 
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Soak and wash the Chinese broccoli
  2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling the tough stems and cutting them to size
  3. Bring a big pot of water to a boil
  4. Add a tbsp of cooking oil and a pinch of salt
  5. Add the vegetables into the pot and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes
  6. Remove and drain for use
  7. Heat up a saucepan and add the sesame seed oil
  8. Add the oyster sauce and mix well
  9. Add 3 to 4 tbsp of the water used to blanch the gai lan and mix well to form a thin gravy
  10. Plate the Chinese broccoli on the serving plate 
  11. Drizzle the oyster sauce gravy over them before serving 

I like the way the chef in the cooking video below prepares the oyster sauce for a plate of blanched gai lan.

Stir Fry Gai Lan

A very popular Chinese cooking technique is stir frying. Besides garlic, adding cooking wine and sugar when stir-frying Chinese broccoli helps to cut down the bitterness of the leaves. 

Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli with Garlic

Ingredients

  • 300g Chinese broccoli
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Cooking oil 

Directions

  1. Soak and wash the Chinese broccoli. Separate the leaves from the main stem. Cut the leaves in half or leave them whole depending on the size. Peel the outer skin of the stem as they can be quite tough and fibrous. Then, slice them diagonally into bite-sized pieces. Give all the leaves and stems another good rinse and drain.
  2. Heat up a saute pan or wok and add 2 tbsp cooking oil
  3. Add the chopped garlic and fry till fragrant. Be careful to lower the heat to prevent the garlic from burning.
  4. Add the stems, stir fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the leaves. Give the leaves and stem a quick stir. Add a dash of water and cover.
  5. Let the vegetables simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  6. The gai lan should be done when the white part of the stems look slightly translucent and the leaves are soft. 
  7. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar, stir it through before turning off the heat and removing from the pan.

Another popular way to sweeten a stir-fried gai lan is to add oyster sauce. It is a multi-purpose condiment that contains sugar, wine and salt.

Stir Fried Gai Lan with Ginger

Besides garlic, ginger is also commonly used.  Here is a cooking video demonstrating how to do a Chinese broccoli stir-fry with ginger.

Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli with Beef

Another popular companion is beef. Here is a cooking video for beef gai lan stir-fry.

Ingredient Notebook

Assorted Meatballs

The first recipe mentioned an assortment of meat balls. These are machine-made balls using meat pastes made of fish, pork, beef, cuttlefish or squid. I have not found any on Amazon but they are available at Shopee.

Bobo Meat ball Series (Shopee)

Chinese broccoli, Choy Sum and Bok Choy

It is easy to mix Chinese broccoli up with bok choy 小白菜 (xiao bai cai) or choy sum 菜心 (cai xin). They are leafy green vegetables and do look similar. 

Choy sum and bok choy can be interchangeable used in most Chinese soups. The difference in taste and texture may not be that significant.

Gai lan is a different story. I would not recommend substituting choy sum or bok choy with gai lan. 

Happy Souping, Phoebe