Chinese broccoli (gai lan) looks like a cross between basic supermarket broccoli and the Italian broccoli rabe. The vegetable tastes more like broccoli rabe with its big green leaves and its pungent bite. Stir-frying is the best way to cook Chinese broccoli, as it brings out the natural flavor, accented here with a touch of sugar, ginger, and rice wine. It will need to be washed and drained several hours before stir-frying, and it must be stir-fried in small amounts (about twelve ounces) to achieve the best wok hay (see “The Breath of a Wok”). It’s better to cook two separate recipes than to try to fit too much in the wok.
Choose broccoli that has buds and no flowers. If there are flowers, the broccoli is too old. The stalks are never as thick as those of regular broccoli, but if they are thicker than 1/2 inch, they need to be halved lengthwise. The vegetable is better in the colder months, but is available year-round in Chinese produce markets.
10 stalks Chinese broccoli (gai lan), about 12 ounces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 slices ginger
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice cooking wine
Wash the broccoli in several changes of cold water and drain thoroughly in a colander until dry to the touch. Trim 1/4 inch from the bottom of each stalk, Stalks that are more than 1/2 inch in diameter should be peeled, then halved lengthwise. Cut the broccoli stalks and leaves into 2 1/2-inch-long pieces, keeping the stalk ends separate from the leaves and buds.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the oil and ginger, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add only the broccoli stalks and stir-fry 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until the stalks are bright green. Add the leaves, and continue cooking for 1 minute until the leaves are just limp.
Sprinkle on the sugar, salt, and rice wine. Stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender but still bright green. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal.
Taken from Grace Young’s book “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen” with permission. © Grace Young. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 0-684-84739-6.