Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Gai Lan)
This Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce is an easy, ubiquitous vegetable side dish. You’ll find it at restaurants as well as on Chinese home dinner tables. If you’ve ever been to a dim sum place, this is often the only green vegetable dish available on the rolling carts!
The main flavor agent here is the oyster sauce, which is a little sweet and has great umami.
If you’re unfamiliar with oyster sauce, read more about it in our Oyster Sauce Ingredients Glossary article. Try Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Oyster Sauce, or if you’re willing to splurge, Megachef Oyster Sauce, available at The Mala Market.
The Megachef brand does cost more, but it’s also sweeter and more pourable, which makes it a good option for this application.We used it here.
If you’d like to make this recipe vegan/vegetarian, you can also use Vegetarian Oyster Sauce or Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce (flavored with mushrooms rather than oysters) instead.
Regular vs. Baby Chinese Broccoli
Chinese cooks usually make this dish with the larger regular Chinese broccoli stalks.
That said, at your local Asian market, you may also find tender baby Chinese broccoli. Either is fine for this, but be sure to adjust cooking time accordingly. You’ll only need to cook the baby Chinese broccoli for about 1 minute.
Also, with the larger variety, you’re going to want to trim off the ends, and perhaps even peel the stems (like you might with asparagus), because they can be tough.
Look for vegetables that are deep green without yellow leaves or flowers, as this is an indication that they’re a bit old or have been sitting out on the supermarket floor too long.
How to Wash Chinese Broccoli
Be sure to thoroughly wash your Chinese broccoli (or any leafy greens) before cooking. The best way to do this is by filling a large bowl or basin with clean water. Here are the steps:
- Add the trimmed vegetables to the basin, and rub them between your hands to get rid of any residue and release sand/grit.
- Soak for at least 5 minutes to allow the grit to settle at the bottom of the basin.
- Lift the vegetables out of the water and into a colander (do not try to pour them into a colander, or you’ll just be pouring the sand/grit back onto the vegetables).
- Clean out the basin, fill it again with fresh water, and repeat the process 1-2x.
Ok, let’s get on to the recipe!
Boil 2 quarts/liters of water in your wok or a large pot. Add the salt and oil directly to the water.
When the water reaches a good raging boil, carefully add the Chinese leafy broccoli. Depending on how much you have, you may want to work in two batches.
Use tongs or a pair of chopsticks to submerge the gai lan (Chinese Broccoli) completely. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until crisp tender (i.e. tender, but still a bit crunchy). If you like the veggies soft, leave them in a bit longer.
Use a pair of tongs or chopsticks to take the veggies out of the water.
Carefully shake off excess liquid and arrange the Chinese broccoli on a plate. Once they are all on the plate, you can drain any excess water that may have pooled on the plate.
Drizzle a couple tablespoons oyster sauce evenly over the gai lan…