Citizens, your beloved leader – I, the indefatigable TFD – am a huge fan of dim sum, aka “little packages that tug at the heart” (that is actually the translation of dim sum in Chinese!). I’ve been a regular at my local Dim Sum eatery for the last 18 years now, and in recognition of my status am never forced to wait for a table. 🙂
While I typically go for the steamed dim sum, Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is the one vegetable that I never pass up! At dim sum houses, it is always served boiled or steamed with an oyster sauce dressing that I find totally irresistible.
Gai lan is a leaf vegetable featuring thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems with flower heads, similar to but much smaller than broccoli. Broccoli and gai lan belong to the same species – its flavor is very similar to that of broccoli, but slightly more bitter. It is also noticeably stronger. FYI, Broccolini is actually a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan, produced by the Mann Packing Company, Inc.
When selecting gai lan, I urge you to follow the directions found on the fantastic blog of steamykitchen.com:
It’s easy to pick out the best Gai Lan, or to see if it is fresh and tender. Select a bunch, look at the ends of the stalk. If they are dry, crusted and shriveled. Don’t buy. The middle of the stalk should ideally be one color – a creamy, translucent color. If you see a solid white circle in the middle of the stalk, it may mean the Gai Lan is a little old. It still could be good – look at the leaves and the buds for more clues to how fresh it is. Why is this so important? You briefly steam the Gai Lan so that it is tender crisp, so if the vegetable is old, you’ll really taste the bitterness.
Most Gai Lan have white flowers, though there are varieties that include both white and yellow flowers (probably a cross between gai lan and Chinese greens called yu choy) The flower buds should be tight and compact – there should be buds not open flowers. Lots and lots of open flowers means the stalk is older and past its prime for eating and it will be more bitter and chewy.
My recipe is quite traditional, Citizens and follows the Chinese practice of boiling the gai lan with a touch of baking soda to achieve the brilliant emerald green color this vegetable is renowned for!
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