Also known as Chinese broccoli, gai lan 芥蘭 is a dark green vegetable with thick stems, large flat leaves and small flower buds. Look for gai lan with no yellow spots or broken leaves. Check the ends of the stems, make sure they are not dry or cracked. Their tiny flower buds (not flowers) should be pale to light green, tight and compact. Lots of flowers generally indicate gai lan is very old, bitter and hard. Understandably tender gai lan has better taste and sweeter flavor, require less trimming and therefore less wasting.
The easiest and best way to prepare gai lan is simply to blanch them in boiling water and then serve with a drizzle of oyster sauce. Blanching (白灼 in Cantonese) makes gai lan turn bright green, lovely crisp. The sweetness of the sauce complements the slightly bitter taste of the leaves. Sometimes people like to add sesame oil and fried garlic chips, but it is totally unnecessary. Gai lan has unique flavors like no others. I like to taste vegetable as it is. Make sure to blanch gai lan whole, use only the tender parts.
Gai lan with oyster sauce 蠔油芥蘭 is a very popular Chinese dish in restaurants big or small, noodle shops or banquet halls. In dim sum restaurants gai lan with oyster sauce will get delivered to your table on food carts.
At home most Chinese people know how to make this dish because it is so easy to prepare and so delicious to eat. Cantonese cuisine is more focused on the natural flavors of fresh ingredients. Blanched gai lan with simple oyster sauce is definitely a classic dish in Chinese restaurants and households. We have 蠔油芥蘭 often because we love it.
Chinese Gai Lan with Oyster Sauce 蠔油芥蘭
Ingredients and Instructions
1 bunch fresh gai lan (Chinese broccoli), about 1 pound
1 pot boiling hot water, at least enough to cover gai lan, more is better
1 teaspoon sugar (1 packet), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 tablespoon sherry wine
3 tablespoons oyster sauce, mix with 1 tablespoon hot water taken from pan
Trim off tough parts, if the stem is too thick cut it in half vertically. Rinse gai lan, drain well. Don’t cut gai lan in pieces, leave whole when blanching.
In a pan with boiling water, add sugar, salt, add gai lan. Blanch for 1 minute, add oil and wine. Turn to the other side, blanch for about 5 – 6 minutes, turning once more. Cook until tender but still crisp. Don’t over cook. Drain off excess water (not dry). Neatly place gai lan on a plate, drizzle with prepared oyster sauce, serve hot as a side dish. We have 蠔油芥蘭 often because we love it.
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