Gai Lan or Chinese Broccoli or Chinese Kale (Brassica oleracea var alboglabra) is one of my favorite vegetables at Chinese meals. I lived in Singapore for several years and it was there that I learned to eat this delicious and nutritious leafy green. The best restaurants in Singapore had â€œbabyâ€ gai lan which means they were smaller, younger, more tender and significantly more expensiveâ€¦ they were delicious just steamed and splashed with oyster sauce. They were the perfect accompaniment to a brash and fiery platter of chilli crab or some other flavorful stir fry dish. These can also be stir fried with a stronger sauce of garlic and perhaps some soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine and oyster sauceâ€¦
I have noticed that some local market vendors carry Chinese Brocooli regularly and I often buy it when I lack inspiration from the other goods on offer. It is a staple at our house, along the lines of kangkong or kalabasa. At home, I just wash the leaves well, snip off some of the thicker leaves (itâ€™s usually grown a bit too old here), boil up some chicken broth and put the leaves and stems (the best part) into the boiling broth until just cooked then transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with oyster sauce and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Itâ€™s also good with some sesame oil. It also holds up well when stir fried but the key is not to overcook it.
If the gai lan is the right age (younger better than older) and fresh, the stalks are crisp and almost possess a sweetish flavor that is well enhanced by oyster sauce. Older specimens are tough and can border on a tad bitter. Substantial, flavorful and easy to prepare, you really need to try preparing this at home if you have only come across it at a Chinese restaurantâ€¦