Monday, August 10, 2009

Fresh Chinese Broccoli "Gai Lon"

Gai Lan also know as "chinese broccoli" is the most popular chinese vegetable in the world. Possessing the flavor of North American broccoli stalks and similar in appearance to italian broccoli (called "rapini" or "broccoli rabe"). Although chinese broccoli is much more tender and delicious if it's picked properly. Many people who dislike regular broccoli often enjoy eating this variety.

How to buy:

When buying gai lan the first thing to check for is "open" white flowers, this is a sign of overmaturity and the vegetable will be a little tough. If you're willing to overlook this, then I suggest taking a potato peeler and peel about 2 inches off the bottom of the stalks (this will get rid of the tough outer skin). Check the bottoms of the stalks for a milky white substance in the core (similar to dandelion milk), if this is evident forget buying the bunch entirely. The bunch is old, unhealthy, and will taste like crap.

The best gai lan is grown in sandy soil and will have an attractive sheen like a fresh waxed car, it will also taste better! Dull looking product is really has less flavor. The best part of the vegetable is the stalk so if there are a lot of leaves, try and find a better bunch. You're looking for nice, clean bunches with lots of skinny stalks, fat stalks (thicker than your thumb) usually means the stalks are tough but again you can peel the bottoms.

Smell the bunch and if it is not fresh it will have a similar odor to bad conventional broccoli. In a good produce market the butts should be trimmed and even, uneven butts mean the store is lazy and not taking good care of their veggies. Chinese vegetables require about twice as much work due to their frailty and short shelf life.

Fresh Chinese Greens "Yu Choy"

Yu Choy is the second most popular chinese vegetable and similar to gai lan, except the flowers are yellow. The flavor has a mild similarity to spinach and the texture of cooked celery. This vegetable is much more perishable than its cousin gai lan. The same buying methods should be used, although squeeze the stalks when you're inspecting this vegetable, they should be firm (like celery) not hollow. Hollow stalks mean the bunch is rotting from the inside out, no matter how nice the outer appearance looks.

You can steam, boil, or stir fry these two versatile veggies and add a little oyster sauce on top before serving as an easy way to try these two wonderful vegetables.

I've posted a documentary of a mother and son and their chinese vegetables farm in Ontario, Canada. It's good film if you have time to watch.



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