Blanch or stir-fry Chinese broccoli (芥兰，Gai Lan) drizzled with oyster sauce is served in high-end restaurants as well as an easy home cooked dish.
Chinese broccoli is a leafy vegetable with broad flat leaves and fat stems. It looks different from the regular broccoli and has a bitter note. It belongs to the same family of the regular broccoli but with no florets, and the stalk has a crunchy texture resembles asparagus. The leaves are thick and chewy, which will soak up all the flavors of the sauce.
There are varieties of species, which are all suitable to be used in this recipe. I like the Hong Kong Chinese broccoli, which looks great when served. In fact, most of the restaurants in Malaysia use this species for their Hong Kong Gai Lan dish. Baby Chinese broccoli is more tender and tastes great, but it may not look so gorgeous on the dining table. The choice is entirely up to you.
If you can’t find Chinese broccoli, substitute it with broccolini, which is the crossbreed of Chinese and regular broccoli.
This article explains how to cook Chinese broccoli by following a few simple steps. If you do it correctly, you should be able to produce the vegetable that is crispy, drizzle with the sauce that flavored with whole garlic and sliced ginger in less than fifteen minutes.
Let’s get started.
Tips to make the perfectly blanched/stir-fry Chinese broccoli
Here is a list of important notes about the ingredients and the way it should be prepared:
The oyster sauce
I have to admit that the name of the recipe is oversimplified and give an impression that it only involves oyster sauce. In fact, the sauce is a combination of a list of ingredients, with oyster sauce as the main ingredients. You will miss out the authentic flavor of the dish if you miss this point.
Don’t forget to add sugar
Unlike the regular broccoli, Chinese broccoli has a slightly bitter note. Hence, it is always necessary to add a small amount of sugar to balance the bitterness. Combine a small amount of sugar with the oyster sauce dramatically improves the overall flavor of the dish.
Use a good quality light soy sauce
Soy sauce has powerful umami which can pump up the overall flavor of the Gai Lan. Use the premium grade light soy sauce along with oyster sauce boosts up the taste.
You can use the vegetarian version of the oyster sauce (make with mushroom) if you prefer a vegetarian dish.
Add a dash of sesame oil to the above ingredients once it the sugar is dissolved and away from heat. Sesame oil will lose its flavor due to prolonged heating.
Sauté the garlic and ginger
Ginger and garlic are your secret ingredients to flavor the Chinese broccoli.
You may want to saute the whole cloves of garlic uncut. The garlic cloves can be served together with the vegetables. On the other hand, sautéing the finely chopped garlic until golden brown and crispy. Keep it at low flame as it can burn easily. Remove the garlic and use the infused vegetable oil to stir-fry the vegetables.
The ginger pieces should be cut into a disk shape of about 1/8 inch thick and sautéing with the oil.
The aromatics infuse the oil, similar to preparing agleo e oleo pasta, that the garlic oil is the vital part of the overall flavor.
You may want to double the quantity of ginger and garlic in the recipe if you prefer a stronger flavor.
How to choose Chinese broccoli
Here is the quick guide on how to choose the Chinese broccoli in case you are not familiar with it
- Choose the bunch with smaller stalks, which is more tender and less fibery. The ‘Hong Kong’ Chinese broccoli is generally less fiber and small in size. Old Chinese broccoli has a bigger stalk and is bitter and stringy.
- The leaves should be of bright green.
- The flower buds should be closed. Open flower buds mean the Chinese broccoli is no longer fresh.
Trim the Chinese broccoli
Watch the videoRead on: Watch the video recipe at the end of this post
Blanching versus stir-frying
There are two ways to cook the Chinese broccoli, both are quick and easy.
Method 1- Blanching
Blanch the vegetables in a wok or stockpot filled with boiling water with some oil. The oil will coat on the vegetables and leave a glossy sheen.
Add some salt to flavor the water. I use approximately one liter of water with a teaspoon of salt for the amount in this recipe. Include a quarter teaspoon of baking soda too. Baking soda increases the pH of the water and will ensure the vegetables stay green throughout the cooking.
Blanch the Chinese broccoli for three minutes or until it is tender. How long it takes depends on the size of the stalk. Bigger stalks needed to cook longer naturally. Pick up one to try is the best way to decide when you should remove it from the water.
Blanching the vegetables with some baking soda will ensure the color remain attractive while serving. This is the preferred method if it is served in the restaurant.
Method 2 – Stir-frying
If you do not want to blanch the Chinese broccoli, you can simplify the process by sauteing the Chinese broccoli.
Sauté the Chinese broccoli with the garlic and ginger oil in a wok until tender but remains crispy.
I prefer to stir-fry the vegetable for a minute, follow by adding two tablespoons water and put on the wok cover. Let the vegetable steam for three minutes and remove the lid. By then, the water should have evaporated.
The actual timing depends on the size of the vegetables. Pick up one to try if you want to be sure it cooks perfectly.
How to serve
To serve, arrange the Chinese broccoli on a plate and cut them crosswise into two. Drizzle the sauce on top. Garnish with the fried garlic.
Watch this video
A picture worth a thousand words, a video worth a thousand images.
This video will show you how to prepare Chinese broccoli. (6.03 minutes)
(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab)
The Chinese Broccoli Recipe
Stir-fry of blanched Chinese broccoli is a traditional home-cooked dish for the Chinese. It is also widely served in the restaurants. This recipe shows you step-by-step how to prepare it.
- Wash the Chinese broccoli. Cut off part of the stem that is tough.
- Peel of the tough fiber n the surface of the stalk with a knife or vegetable peeler.
- Boil about 1 liter of water in a stockpot or the wok.
- Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda.
- Blanch the broccoli for five minute until the stalks are tender. Drained.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan/wok. Saute the garlic bulb and ginger slices until aromatic.
- Add the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, and water. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan/wok. Saute the chopped garlic until golden brown. Remove the garlic and add the ginger slices to continue sautéing for a minute.
- Add the vegetables and stir fry for half a minute.
- Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to stir-fry until the water is dried out.
- Combine the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, and water. Heat up in a small pot until the sugar dissolves.
- Place the vegetables on a serving plate, cut the Chinese broccoli lengthwise into two.
- Drizzle the sauce onto the vegetable.
- Garnish with fried garlic and serve.
You may also need the following items for this recipe:
Get The Best Asian Recipes Free!
Learn how to cook the time-tested recipes served in an Asian restaurant created by a native Asian chef.