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This easy Chinese broccoli stir-fry with garlic sauce complements any meal with its garlicky goodness and health benefits. Chinese broccoli or gai lan (also pronounced kai lan) is a highly nutritious leafy green and there are many reasons you should add it to your diet.
What Is The Difference Between Chinese Broccoli And Regular Broccoli?
Gai lan belongs to a sub-group of Brassica oleracea (this family includes kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens). Its flavor is similar to broccoli but more pungent.
The broad blue-green leaves of Chinese broccoli are complemented by long, crisp, thick stems and a small head. In contrast to the un-bloomed flower of Western broccoli, the main parts eaten are the long stems and dull green leaves. The full leaves are bitter and sometimes spicy in flavor.
Why We Love This Chinese Broccoli Stir-Fry With Garlic
Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce is an appetizing and healthy side dish that’ll complete any meal such as this Kung Pao Beef. It’s a great way to get your daily dose of leafy greens. Chinese broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients and contains high amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin E.
Kai lan stir fry is also packed with garlic and ginger. Garlic is known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties, amongst many others. Ginger shares many of the same properties, and is also good for preventing nausea and relieving stomach pain.
But this easy Chinese broccoli stir-fry with garlic sauce is not only healthy, but it is also impeccably balanced in flavors and textures. The vegetables are cooked for a minimal amount of time which makes them perfectly crisp and tender.
This Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce recipe is so simple to prepare. It cooks in less than 10 minutes and you can even prepare the ingredients ahead of time for minimal prep. Make sure to check the notes and tips for some good pointers.
What Do I Need To Make Chinese Broccoli Stir-Fry?
Besides the Chinese broccoli, I’m sure you have most of the items in your pantry.
Ingredients for easy Chinese broccoli stir-fry with garlic sauce:
- 1 lb Chinese broccoli (washed thoroughly, trimmed, and cut at an angle into 2 to 2 ½ inch pieces)
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. sugar (omit if using coconut aminos)
- 1/8 tsp. ground white pepper (or black pepper)
- 1 tsp. soy sauce (or coconut aminos), to garnish
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. clear rice wine or Shaoxing wine (omit if you can’t have alcohol)
- 2 Tbsp. neutral vegetable oil
- ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil, to garnish
- Optional: 7 slices fresh ginger
How To Cook Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry
Most of the work is in washing and prepping the Chinese broccoli. The rest is a breeze. There are two methods for cooking Chinese broccoli, but in this recipe, we’ll use the wok or sautéing method. For the blanching method, check below the Notes & Tips.
Step 1: Wash the Chinese broccoli
To wash, repeatedly submerge the Chinese broccoli stems and leaves in cold water and massage them to get the dirt off.
Step 2: Trim and cut the gai lan
Trim the bottom ends of the Chinese broccoli by half an inch to an inch. Larger gai lan stems can get tough at the bottom of the stalk, so you want to trim ¼-inch off the ends and remove the outer layer of the bottom stem with a knife. This part can be too fibrous to eat.
Slice each stalk on a diagonal into 2 to 2 ½ inch pieces. The leafy part of the gai lan doesn’t need to be cut since it cooks faster.
Step 3: Prepare the stir fry
Now that your Chinese broccoli is ready, you can heat the wok over medium heat. Wait until it’s smoking, then pour the oil around the perimeter of the wok. Add your optional ginger slices and cook for 15 seconds until they’re fragrant and start to caramelize.
Note: You can also use a large skillet, but remember that the ingredients will take a bit longer to cook. Adjust accordingly.
Step 4: Add the garlic and Chinese broccoli stems
Next, add the garlic and Chinese broccoli stems. Stir fry the stems until they turn bright green, using a scooping motion to coat it evenly with oil, ginger, and garlic. After about 2 minutes, add the leafy parts of the Chinese broccoli and coat them with garlic oil.
Step 5: Increase the heat to high and add the clear rice wine around the perimeter of the wok.
Push the gai lan into the center of the wok in a pile and cover for 1 minute. The steam will continue cooking the vegetables.
Step 6: Uncover the wok and add salt, sugar, and white pepper.
Stir fry for another 30 seconds, stirring with a spatula to incorporate the seasonings, until the gai lan is as tender as you desire.
Step 7: Turn off the heat and drizzle the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.
Mix to coat evenly and serve with optional sesame seeds and red pepper flakes to garnish. Enjoy with your favorite main dishes and a side of rice.
Step 8: Enjoy your Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry With Garlic Sauce!
Notes & Tips
- If you’re new to Chinese broccoli, you may want to remove the bitter taste by blanching the vegetable. Check the next section on How to blanch Chinese broccoli for full details.
- The clear rice wine is also optional, but it gives the dish an authentic flavor. If you don’t want any bit of alcohol in your food, you can omit it.
- If you’re using a wok, make sure you stir with a spatula consistently or toss your wok (except when the gai lan is covered). That’s why they call it a stir-fry after all.
- Remember that cooking in a large skillet will take a bit longer, but be careful not to overcook the vegetables.
- Add the gan lai stems and then the leafy parts about 2 minutes later. The stems take longer to cook and we want all parts of the Chinese broccoli to be evenly cooked.
- If you can’t find Chinese broccoli, substitute broccolini. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It looks and tastes similar, but has florets instead of leaves, more like the common broccoli.
- Last, but not least, always taste before serving and adjust seasonings to your liking. I like adding some soy sauce, but you can use coconut aminos for a gluten-free garnish. In this case, the sugar can be omitted.
How To Blanch Chinese Broccoli
- Hot water blanching is optional but recommended if you’re trying gai lan for the first time. Chinese broccoli can seem a bit bitter and blanching it before stir-frying helps to remove some of the bitterness.
- Here’s how to make Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce using the hot water blanching method:
- Trim and wash the Chinese broccoli as indicated in the instructions above.
- Blanch the vegetable in hot water. Add a few pinches of salt to a pot of hot, boiling water. The stems of the Chinese broccoli should be blanched for 45 seconds, and the leafy portions for 15 seconds.
- Now quickly shock the vegetable. Place the Chinese broccoli in a bowl of cold water for a brief 10 seconds to stop the cooking process while maintaining the vegetable’s bright green color. Then, gently squeeze the leaves to drain the water.
- Cook the ginger slices and minced garlic in oil and drizzle over the blanched Chinese broccoli.
- Serve with oyster sauce, and drizzle with toasted sesame oil, if desired.
- 1 Tbsp. clear rice wine
- 2 Tbsp. neutral vegetable oil
- ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil to garnish
- Optional: 7 slices fresh ginger
- Wash, trim, and cut the Chinese broccoli into 2 to 2 ½ inch pieces.
- Heat a wok or large skillet on medium-high and add vegetable oil.
- Add the optional ginger slices and cook until fragrant. Then add the gai lan stems and the garlic. Stir and cook until they’re bright green (about 2 minutes).
- Add leafy parts and toss to coat.
- Increase heat to high and pour rice wine along the rim of the wok or skillet. Stir and cover for 1 minute.
- Uncover, add salt, sugar, and white pepper, and stir fry for another 30 seconds.
- Turn the heat off and drizzle sesame oil and soy sauce. Mix to coat and serve hot or cold with optional sesame seeds and red pepper flakes to garnish.