Chinese broccoli or gai lan is one of my favorite vegetables. Not only is it super versatile and easy to cook, but it is also filled with folic acid, lots of vitamins and dietary fiber. I often pair it with meat dishes or dishes that are a bit fatty since the slight bitterness helps cut the richness of other dishes. These also go really with steamed fish. When making them, make sure to make a heaping pile since they also reheat well. The key is to cook them quickly over high heat and then remove them to keep them crunchy. Also look for smaller stems on your gai lan. If it is too woody, you may want to trim the stems a bit so that they will cook faster. I like to cut each stem at a bias, cutting bigger slivers from the stem and then larger pieces from the green leafy parts. Also try to keep these two piles separate since the leaves take much less time to cook than the stems.
In China I would often seen Chinese broccoli doused in oyster sauce, but I think garlic and chilis are my favorite preparation. I will sometimes throw in some minced ginger or even a dash of soy, but I think this dish is best kept simple to allow for the sweetness of the greens to shine. The red chilis also help offset the bitterness.
Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli (gai lan)
1 lb Chinese broccoli
2 Tbsp neutral cooking oil like grape seed oil
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1-2 red chilis sliced (I like finger hot, sometimes I will substitute chili flakes)
salt or a drizzle of soy to taste
1.Wash and dry the Chinese broccoli. Be careful as there will sometimes be sand. Slice the stems at an angle into small bite size pieces. Once you reach the leafy section of the stalk, cut bigger pieces as the leaves tend to cook much faster than the stems that can sometimes be a little woody. I will often make two different piles so that I can allow the stems to cook a bit longer without the leafy sections getting overcooked.
2. Heat a wok or skillet that has a lid over high heat. Drizzle your oil in to the pan. The pan is hot enough when the oil starts to smoke a little. Quickly throw in your smashed garlic cloves and saute for about 30 seconds until you start smelling them release their flavor. Add your chili flakes or sliced fresh red chilis.
3. Quickly throw in your washed greens. Don’t worry if there is some moisture on them, this will actually help them cook and steam a bit. Keep tossing the wok or stirring the contents of your skillet to make sure that the garlic does not burn.
4. Cover the contents of the pan loosely to allow the steam to help cook the greens. Once they are fork tender, but still a bit crunchy (3-5 minutes), remove the greens and season with salt or if you prefer, drizzle with some soy sauce.