Just a couple of things first:
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Here is a vegetable that goes by several name variations: kai-lan, gai-lan, Chinese broccoli, Chinese kale. This is the same leafy greens that I had kept asking my friend Alice for its name about but she didn’t know what it was in English. It’s kind of sad that I only found out about it when I went to the Chinese supermarket. I’m so good at this food-thing, you know? [grins]
According to Wikipedia, Gai-lan (English) is a “slightly bitter leaf vegetable featuring thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems and a small number of tiny, almost vestigial flower heads similar to those of broccoli”, as seen here in Exhibit A:
It is of the same species as broccoli and kale, hence it’s either Chinese broccoli OR kale. Its flavor is very similar to that of broccoli, but a bit sweeter. Gai-lan is widely eaten in Chinese cuisine — stir-fried with ginger and garlic or boiled served with oyster sauce, both of which I’ve tried. Unlike broccoli, where only the flowering parts are normally eaten, the leaves and stems of the Chinese broccoli are eaten. For us Asians, the lesser the amount that needs to be thrown away, the better. We are, after all, from a culture where parents are bound to finish their kids leftovers because it would be such a waste not to.
When I cooked Gai-lan, I opted to experiment as usual, instead. Around the time that I made this, I felt like I was on the Iron Chef (for Dummies, mind you) with the “secret ingredient”: shiitake mushrooms. I bought a big bag of it and they ended up being cooked with : soy bean sprouts, chow mein (a concoction which will never make it to this site because if recipes were comedies, this would be the really bad slaptstick version), and with gai-lan and ground beef:
A la cuisine! Haha…sorry. I get carried away.
I really loved how this last-minute concoction turned out. The slight bitterness of the Chinese broccoli was counteracted by the ginger-y ground beef and soft mushrooms. Rice topped with this is perfection. Here is a simple balanced meal that is tasty and offers a lot of different textures, without an overpowering taste.
I’m not one to advocate deprivation, only moderation: a little meat, some veggies, and rice. That’s my eating logic, and I’m sticking to it. :)
Chinese Broccoli and Beef Stir-Fry
» download the print-ready PDF recipe
• 1/2 lb ground beef
• 11 Chinese broccoli/kale or gai-lan/kai-lan stalks/bunches, chopped into 1″ to 1.5″ length (cut the stems shorter because they cook longer)
• 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (about 1 1/2 generous cup when sliced)
• 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
• 1 tsp ground ginger (powder)
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp ground pepper
• ½ tbsp vegetable oil
1. In medium heat, sauté onions in pre-heated oil for 5 minutes until the pieces become translucent. Add shiitake mushrooms, salt, pepper, and sauté for another 3 minutes.
2. Mix in the ground ginger powder and ground beef. Cook on medium-high heat for 8 minutes or until the juice of the meat is clear. Stir occasionally.
3. Place chopped Chinese broccoli on top of the meat and mushroom. Cover for 5 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper if preferred.
4. Take off the heat and serve with rice.