Asparagus are in season, but Miriam and I have difficulty with it. I decided to make two vegetable dishes for this Sunday’s dinner. I found some young Chinese broccoli (kai-lan) for us and I made it with a sight Macanese twist.
Chinese broccoli can be harvested early or late in the season. If picked early, they have fairly thin stems that do not need a lot of prep work. When they are harvested later in the season the stems can be thick and fibrous. In that case, you can strip off the peel of the lower half of the stem with a vegetable peeler.
Karl’s Chinese Broccoli with Mushroom Sauce II
1 lb. Chinese broccoli
1 tsp. Kosher salt
2 Tbs. peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 green onions, sliced finely
¼ cup mushroom sauce (vegetarian version of oyster sauce)
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
¼-½ tsp. piri-piri
1 tsp. light soy sauce mixed with ½ tsp. corn starch
Note: If you are using mature broccoli, the prep work in this dish takes a while, but this is a good dish to make ahead, because you can set it up to the final steps and put it on hold until the last minute before serving.
1. Rinse and refresh the broccoli.
Tip: Trim the cut edge of the stem and set the vegetables in a pot of cool water with a tablespoon of vinegar. This step is not really necessary, unless your broccoli is really limp, but I prefer to always do it.
2. Remove the lower large leaves and any flower head at the top.
Tip: You may save the removed leaves for another dish, but today I decided to cook them separately and lay them down as a base—to be hidden by the pretty whole vegetables.
Note: Some might leave on the flower heads, but the buds tend to be a bit chewy and get stuck in my teeth.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Turn off the heat.
Tip: If all of your stems are the same size you may proceed with the next step. However, I had several stems that were very much thicker that the others. Holding these broccoli by the leaves I submerged just the thick stems in the boiling water for two minutes before submerging the rest of the broccoli.
4. Taking all of the broccoli at once, submerge them completely in the hot water.
Tip: An Asian spider is a very useful tool for holding all of the broccoli under the water and removing them without damaging the leaves.
5. Leave the broccoli submerges for 4-5 minutes, until the steams are just crisp tender.
6. Transfer the broccoli to a cold water bath to stop them from over cooking.
7. Once the broccoli have cooled, take a few stems at a time in one hand. Straighten out the leaves and gently squeeze them to press out excess water.
Tip: You can put this dish on hold, at this point, for as much as two hours. The rest of the preparation takes only a few minutes.
8. Put the oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the garlic and most of the green onion.
9. Reserve a bit of the green onions tops for garnish.
10. Sauté the vegetables until fragrant, 1-2 minutes, and add the mushroom sauce, ginger, dark soy sauce, and piri-piri.
11. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook gently until thickened, about one minute.
12. Take the broccoli stems, one at a time, and dip them in the sauce to coat.
Tip: If the vegetables have been sitting for awhile, the leaves may have released more water. Before putting on the sauce, hold the broccoli in place with one hand and tip the plate to drain off the excess liquid.
13. Arrange the stems attractively the serving plate.
14. Spoon the remaining sauce over the vegetables and microwave them on high for one minute.
15. Garnish with the remaining green onion and serve warm.
Tip: Although they are also good cold.