Growing up, not having a plate of Chinese greens on the table for dinner was like not having rice—it was simply unthinkable. Quick to cook, simple and delicious, Chinese greens are a great way to add a vegetable dish to your meal. In this series, we'll be talking about some of the most common types of Chinese greens, common cooking methods, and a few ways to bring some Western greens into the fold as well. Check out the entire series here!
Also known as gai lan, Chinese broccoli is a dark green vegetable with thick stalks, large flat leaves and tiny flower buds. It has a slightly bitter flavor, though not as bitter as broccoli rabe. Still, it's flavor is robust enough that it does great with other bold flavors, like garlic and oyster sauce. In this preparation, we're using both.
When selecting both Chinese broccoli, look for bright green crisp leaves with no yellow spots and are bruise free. The tiny flower buds should be tight and compact. Also check the ends of the stalks and make sure they are not dry or crusted. For tender choy sum, select ones with small tender stalks.
I start by blanching my broccoli in boiling water, cooking it until it's just past the al dente stage.
Careful drainage is absolutely essential here—any excess water clinging to the broccoli will only serve to water down the flavor of the sauce. You can wring them dry over the pot, or tun them through a salad spinner to get rid of all traces of excess moisture.
Pungent and flavorful, oyster sauce is essential in Chinese cooking especially in the Cantonese kitchen. It's sweet, salty, earthy, and rich, and is usually used in stir-fry dishes, braises, or drizzled on top of noodles and vegetables. By itself, oyster sauce is very pungent so it's rarely used as a dipping sauce.
There are a few ways to make this classic Cantonese dish. Some recipes calls for the broccoli to be stir-fry with the oyster sauce, while others suggest drizzling oyster sauce straight out of the bottle on top of blanched greens. I like to keep it simple by thinning out the oyster sauce with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic oil (oil that I've saved from frying garlic, more on that in a second), and a little bit of hot water.
For an added flavor and texture, I like to sprinkle a little fried garlic on top, made by slow-cooking chopped garlic in oil until crisp and golden brown
The finished dish is as flavorful as it is simple; the kind of side dish that should make it into your regular rotation.
About the Author: Shao Z. was born in Guangzhou, the birthplace of dim sum, and raised in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. As a sibling-less child, cooking was a way to cure after school snack attacks and a way to keep herself entertained. That's how her love for food and cooking started, and it continues to grow. She blog at friedwontons4u.com and is on Twitter at @friedwontons4u.