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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I like the way the chef in the cooking video below prepares the oyster sauce for a plate of blanched 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.
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.
Besides garlic, ginger is also commonly used. Here is a cooking video demonstrating how to do a Chinese broccoli stir-fry with ginger.
Another popular companion is beef. Here is a cooking video for beef gai lan stir-fry.
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)
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.