This Chinese broccoli stir fry is an easy to make and tasty vegetable side dish, perfect for any meal. It's garlicky, fresh, and delicious! Enjoy it char siu, teriyaki chicken, or miso salmon and some rice to complete the meal.
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What is gai lan?
Gai lan or Chinese broccoli, sometimes also known as Chinese kale, is a green leafy vegetable often served as a stir fry, with oyster sauce at dim sum, or added to stir fry dishes, like Thai fried rice.
Contrary to its name, Chinese broccoli is less like you typical broccoli and is more like broccolini. It's a hardy vegetable with dark green leaves, light green stalk, with a slight bitter flavor.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Gai Lan - Also known as Chinese broccoli. You can find it at most Asian markets in the product aisles. Some markets may even offer baby gai lan, which are the thinner and more tender tips of gai lan.
- Garlic - Chinese broccoli stir fry loves garlic! It makes the stir fry super tasty.
- Water - For steaming the gai lan. Room temperature or warmer water is recommended so that it doesn't cool the pan too much.
- Shaoxing rice wine - Although this is an optional ingredient, we highly recommend using it. The rice wine makes the Chinese broccoli so much more fragrant and adds to the flavor as well.
- Salt and sugar - These two are the main seasonings for this stir fry. Sugar may sound weird, but it really helps to round out the flavor.
- Chicken bouillon powder - This is the secret ingredient that adds umami to the stir fry. You can find chicken bouillon powder at most Asian markets and your local grocery store, but if you can't find it, use a bit more salt instead.
- Oil - Any neutral oil, such as canola, grapeseed, and avocado, is perfect. Oil is essential for making vegetables tastes good.
How to cut Chinese broccoli for stir fry
1. After washing and cleaning the Chinese broccoli, shake off as much water as possible. Then, break off the leaves from each of the thick stems.
2. For the stem, peel the other layer until the pale green, tender stem is revealed. This is essential for regular gai lan because the stems are thick and can be quite fibrous. If using baby gai lan, this step can be skipped.
3. Trim off a little bit of the bottom of the stem, about ¼ inch. Then cut the stems at an angle into bite size pieces.
4. For the leaves, we recommend stacking them and cutting them into 1 to 2 inch, bite size pieces.
🌟 Pro tip: Keep the stems and leaves separate because the stems are hardier and will take a bit longer to cook than the leaves.
How to make Chinese broccoli stir fry
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Saute the garlic. Into a wok or large pan over medium heat, add some oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until it starts to turn brown.
2. Add the stems. To the pan, add the Chinese broccoli stems and sauté for about 15 to 30 seconds. Then, add the leaves and give everything a rough mix.
3. Steam the Chinese broccoli. Pour the water into the pan and cover with a lid. Allow the Chinese broccoli to steam for about 2 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted and the stems are just tender.
🌟 Pro tip: Because the leaves are so voluminous, it may be difficult to stir the Chinese broccoli when first added. So if needed, give the vegetables another stir midway during steaming, when the leaves start to wilt a little. Then, cover to finish steaming.
4. Add the Shaoxing rice wine. Uncover the lid and drizzle the rice wine around the pan. Stir fry and cook until fragrant and the alcohol is cooked off, about 15 to 30 seconds.
5. Season. Finish the stir fry by seasoning with salt, chicken bouillon powder, and sugar. Stir and toss until well combined. Enjoy while hot!
- Dry the gai lan well after cleaning and washing. This is important for preventing oil pops and splatters.
- Steam a little longer if you prefer the Chinese broccoli to be softer. Add a couple more tablespoons of water as well.
- Cut the stems of the Chinese broccoli at an angle to help cook it faster. This is especially helpful for thick stems of regular Chinese broccoli. It's not necessary for baby Chinese broccoli.
- Don't skimp on the oil. Using enough oil for veggies, especially leafy greens make them taste better.
Storage and reheating
Leftover stir fried gai lan can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days. Make sure to allow the veggies to cool completely before covering.
To reheat, either microwave until hot in a microwave safe container, or place the leftover into a pan over medium heat and reheat until hot.
Yes! All parts of Chinese broccoli are edible. That includes the leaves, stems, and even flowers.
The easiest way to wash Chinese broccoli is by soaking them in a large bowl of water for a few minutes. Then shake them in the water like you would a paint brush. If needed, rub the leaves to help get rid of stubborn dirt. Drain the water and repeat the process one or two more times with clean water.
The best and most accessible substitute for Chinese broccoli is broccolini. They taste the most similar and can be prepared similarly. For Asian vegetables, choy sum is a good substitute.
Some Asian markets offer both regular and baby gai lan. Regular gai lan are larger in general and have thicker stems that can be chewy and fibrous if not peeled. Baby gai lan, as the name suggests, is smaller and thinner than regular gai lan and tastes slightly milder. They are sometimes called gai lan tips. Baby gai lan are more tender and doesn't require peeling. So you can just trim the ends and use as desired.
Chinese Broccoli Stir Fry
- 1 pound gai lan rinsed and cleaned (also known as Chinese broccoli)
- 3 tablespoons oil (any neutral oil such as canola, grapeseed, and avocado)
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (optional but highly recommended)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
- ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
- Prepare the gai lan:After the Chinese broccoli is rinsed and cleaned, shake off as much water as possible. Separate the leaves from each stem and keep them separated. Using a vegetable peeler or pairing knife, peel off the outer skin of the stem until the tender, pale green center is revealed. This is especially helpful for regular gai lan.*
- For the Chinese broccoli stems, trim off the bottoms, then cut the stems at an angle, into bit size pieces. For the leaves, stack them together and cut them into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Keep the stems and leaves separated.
- Cook the gai lan:In a wok or large pan over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced garlic and sauté until the garlic starts to brown.
- Add the Chinese broccoli stems and stir fry briefly, about 15 to 30 seconds, then, add the leaves. Give everything a rough mix.
- Drizzle in the water and cover with a lid. Allow the gai lan to steam for about 2 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted and the stems are just tender. You may need to stir the vegetables mid way to help it cook more evenly.
- Once the leaves have wilted, drizzle the Shaoxing rice wine around the pan. Stir and toss the Chinese broccoli until fragrant and the rice wine is cooked off.
- Finish by seasoning the vegetables with salt, chicken bouillon powder, and sugar. Stir and toss well to combine. Enjoy while hot!
- Gai lan - Some Asian markets offer both regular gai lan and baby gai lan. As the name suggests, baby gai lan is thinner and much more tender than the regular ones. If using baby gai lan, you can skip the peeling process and just cut the baby gai lan into bit size pieces, about 1 to 2 inches long.
- Chicken bouillon powder - If you do not have chicken bouillon powder or want to keep the dish vegan and vegetarian, omit the bouillon powder. Instead, use about ¼ teaspoon more salt per ½ teaspoon of chicken bouillon powder.