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Gai Lan (芥蘭), otherwise known as Chinese Broccoli in English is the most popular vegetable eaten in Chinese Cuisine. This vegetable belongs in the Brassicaceae family and it is mostly grown in the south of China. The main area of production are Guang Dong, Guang Xi, Fu Jian, and Taiwan.Instead flowery florets like the standard broccoli, Gai Lan is more characterized by its leaf and stalk. Most people who eat it actually prize the stalk more than the leaf.
Gai Lan Taste and Texture
Gai Lan has a taste similar to Broccoli. In my opinion, the flavor is actually more mild than broccoli. This is in contrast to all the other website out there. The main difference between this and standard broccoli, is the texture. Instead of a soft and mushy vegetable, you can get a delicious crunch from the stem. The leaf has a stronger flavor than the stem but it can also absorb a lot of sauce, making it perfect for stir frys.
How to Cook and Prepare Gai Lan
Because it grows in the southern region of China, its not a surprise that this dish is found commonly in Cantonese Dish. You can find it served in Dim Sum restaurant, where they often sell it drizzled with Oyster Sauce and Sesame Oil.
The most common way to eat Gai Lan is simple steamed. To prepare it for steaming, just wash it and trim the stalk if it looks very woody. Older and larger Gai Lan stem has a tougher brand that farmers will break off. If you happen to get these, use a vegetable peeler and trim the sides a bit. Another thing that you should be aware of, is that larger Gai Lan vegetables might have holes in the bottom of the stem. I really dont know what that means, but I assume its fine to eat.
Another popular way of preparing the dish is via stir frys. Since foreign Chinese Chef didnt have the gai lan readily available, they would use broccoli as a substitute. I would not be the least bit surprised if the famous Chinese Beef Broccoli is actually a result of this.
Where to Buy
You will only be able to find this vegetable in Chinese Super Market. I have never seen it in a Western Supermarket. Expect to pay around 1.20 per lb for this vegetables. Amazon seems to have a Listing. But it seems to be out of stock.
How to Pick Gai Lan
When buying, look for a vegetable that is about medium size. The ones that are too big are old and woody in texture. The leaves should be thick, neat, smooth and tender. Avoid any that are turning yellow. That is a sign that its going bad and that the nutritional value from the vegetables are gone. Also avoid vegetables that have large and bloomed
flower buds which is a sign that it was harvested when the vegetable is old.
Health and Nutrition
There seems to be a lot of claims about the health benefit of the vegetables. Unfortunately, I cannot claim the accuracy of these statement. Most of the information that I got is from this website. And as far I can tell its mostly old wives tale. Take the following information with a grain of salt.
It is high in vitamin c with anti cancer ingredients. Because of its high Vitamin C content it is very effective gastrointestinal issue, insomnia, fevers, and scurvy. It also reduces cholesterol, soften blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart attack.
Recipes with Gai Lan
You can use this vegetable in place for any stir fry. The only recommendation that I have is to cut it diagonally and in smaller pieces. The Leaf will cook faster than the stem, so always add that near the end of cooking.
Gai Lan with Oyster Sauce
Making this dim sum cart favorite is actually very simple and it only needs a few ingredients.
1) Place the vegetable into the pan.
2) Fill the pan 1/4 way the height of the vegetable and cover.
3) Once the water is evaporated, it should be bright emerald green.
4) Check for the stalk tenderness, then once soft with a crunch turn off the heat.
5) Pour Sesame Oil and Toss.
6) Plate it on a dish then drizzle the oyster sauce onto the vegetable and serve.
1) You only need to cook it until the vegetable is slightly soft. If you see it go past the emerald green color, you have overcooked it and it will become soft and mushy.
2) 1/4 quarter of the water is usually what is necessary to cook it. Once its evaporated, it should be almost done.
3) The Sesame oil give the vegetable a beautiful sheen and adds a sweet nuttiness to it.
4) The Oyster Sauce has a very strong flavor which will balance out with the Gai Lan and the Sesame Oil.
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