Chinese Broccoli

chinese broccoli

General Information

Chinese broccoli, also known as Gai Lan, is similar to broccoli raab but is sweeter, less bitter and leafier.  Chinese broccoli has broad blue-green leaves with long, crisp, thick stems and a small head.  The long stems and dull green leaves are the main parts eaten, as opposed to the un-bloomed flower of Western broccoli. The full leaves are quite bitter with a sometimes spicy flavor.  Chinese broccoli is suited to roles somewhere between broccoli and broccoli raab and can be exchanged in recipes.  It is best when blanched and then stir-fried briefly, as it retains its nice green color.  Chinese broccoli is harvested just as the first flower buds begin to open. This is one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables, with one of the highest calcium contents of any food. It’s also rich in iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. In Chinese restaurants, the vegetable is often cooked with oyster sauce, Canton style, and it has an affinity for that sauce. It’s sometimes blanched before it's stir-fried, and can be cooked as you would broccoli.

Health Benefits

Like many leafy green vegetables, Chinese broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients. It contains high amounts of beta carotene. Beta carotene helps prevent age related macular degeneration (ARMD), which causes vision loss and eventually blindness. Additionally, Chinese broccoli is a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E decreases the risk of some cancers and improves immune function, preventing viral and bacterial infections. This green is a great source of dietary fiber as well. 

Storing & Cooking Information

Handling: Clean it as you would other greens, removing the bottom portion of the stems which appear tough and washing thoroughly. Trim off the tough stem ends.  If the stems are extra thick, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, and then halve the stems lengthwise before cooking. When handling the leaves, discard any that appear too thick, wilted, or are any color other than dark green. It is likely that you will have to snap off most of the leaves, and this is okay.

Storing: Chinese broccoli will last 3-5 days stored in plastic bag in hydrator drawer of fridge.

Freezing: Wash thoroughly and cut off woody stems. Blanch (plunge into boiling water) for three minutes.  Chill in ice water, drain off excess water, place in freezer bags and freeze immediately.

TIps: Chinese broccoli is an extremely versatile vegetable. Before cooking, make sure to wash under cold water for at least 30 seconds, this enhances the flavor as it is being prepared. Chinese broccoli pairs very well with grilled fish filet and a side of rice. Like most Asian vegetables, chinese broccoli is a great addition to any stiry fry. For a simple, but delicious green on the side, steam chinese broccoli in boiling water for about 4 minutes.

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