Gai Lan / Chinese Broccoli or Kale with Oyster Sauce


Gai Lan or Chinese Broccoli or Chinese Kale (Brassica oleracea var alboglabra) is one gailan3of 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 “baby” gai lan which means they were smaller, younger, more tender and significantly more expensive… 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 sauce…

I have noticed that some local market vendors carry gailan2Chinese 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 (it’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. It’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 restaurant…


14 Responses

  1. I luv this too. Very healthy and abundant in Boston Chinatown. Please continue your good deed Marketman. You certainly perk up our day in the office and inspire us to cook and eat healthy Pinoy food. 2 thumbs (and toes!!!) up to you!!!!!

  2. It is also good in nilaga or sinigang dishes. Another pinay here gave me that tip, and have been following it ever since.

  3. I didn’t realize I’ve been eating old gai lan all my life! I’ve come to associate that bitter twang to this vegetable.

    No matter, I still like it. Specially with oyters sauce. But having it young, sweet and tender would be heaven I imagine.

  4. At this point i have to say i LOVE the singapore food scene. I love the variety and exoticism of their dishes. Fish head curry in little India, hainanese chicken and ‘carrot cake’ in Chatterbox at the mandarin, beef rendang, seafood at the parkway, laksa lemak, and about a zillion other specialties, whew. i may have to book a flight soon..

    anyway gai lan at hap chang is where i get to eat that particular vegetable fairly often. it’s not HK or singa quality but for this town it’s not bad. cheap too.

  5. Hi MM, im just wondering how you make your oyster sauce seem watery and a bit clear – looks more healthy to me than the oyster sauce we usually buy which is a thicker sauce. And when do you add the sesame oil? Thanks so much, ur site is the first one I open in the morning :)

  6. bettina, when I drain the gai lan and place it on the plate, I make sure to leave some of the liquid it was boiled in. Then mix in standard oyster sauce and you will see it get diluted. You can play with proportions and find the consistency you prefer. Add the sesame oil once it is on the plate, just as a flavor accent. In the photo here, the dish has no sesame oil, hence no obvious “oil slicks” in the liquid. Sesame oil is best uncooked or only briefly heated from a flavor perspective…thanks for the daily visit!

  7. Good day MM, I may be stretching my luck too far,but do you happen to know how to prepare those white carrot cake dish that they have in Singapore. I miss them dearly. Thanks again for this post. I can’t stop the flattery, but going to your blog is really part of my morning/late morning ritual that I will never take out of my schedule.

  8. Hello MM!

    Is this the same one they have with Hainanese Chicken Rice back in Sing.? Where do you buy these locally? We do our grocery mainly in Shopwise Pasong Tamo and I don’t think I’ve ever seen these there. Hope you could share. Thanks!

  9. stir fry it with fresh shiitake mushrooms…the texture play between the meatiness of the mushrooms and the crispiness of the gai lan is sublime…

  10. stir fried gai lan with shiitake mushroom is superb with roasted peking duck! yummmy pix you have there!

  11. Ah, so THAT’S what those things are called! I love ’em, but I only ever get to eat them when I go out for dimsum with my former roommate, who’s Chinese-Malaysian. Thanks for teaching me something new yet again!

  12. Lei, sorry, I haven’t the foggiest clue how to make the white carrot things you have requested… perhaps other readers can chime in if they do know a recipe… ana, yes I think this is the veggie that they sometimes serve with Hainanese Chicken rice though sometimes its the lighter bok choy or pechay green – you can buy these at FTI Taguig, at MarketMarket, at Farmers Market in the stalls that have Chinese greens, etc…. Kong wi, yes it is good with mushrooms as well, but I think the sauce has a touch of cornstarch in that preparation… ann, peking duck sounds good just now… fried neurons…this is really easy to cook if you want to try it at home!

  13. Baby Kailan with oyster sauce is sure one of my favourite here in SG. I often order this dish at my favorite hawker in Angmokio and Jurong. And of course at Crystal Jade- one of the finest restaurant in the city! I like it better with roasted garlic/onion sprinkled on top.



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