How to Cook Chinese Broccoli

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

If you’ve never tried Chinese broccoli, then you are missing out on a leafy green vegetable that has been cultivated for centuries.

What is Chinese Broccoli?

Chinese broccoli, also known as Gailan in Chinese, is a dark, leafy vegetable that bears large, flat leaves on thick stems, as well as flowering heads similar to broccoli, albeit much smaller. Despite the similarity in appearance to many other leafy greens, the flavor of this vegetable is commonly compared to broccoli, but it is notably more bitter. If you are looking for Chinese greens in the grocery store, it can be difficult to know which to choose. Choose the leaves that are bright green and have no yellow spots. The stalks should also be fresh and appear newly cut, without any hardening or shriveled areas on the stem.

Fresh Chinese broccoli on a wooden counter

Fresh Chinese broccoli is delicious when stir-fried or added to soups. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Broccoli, chinese, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]92.55
Energy [kcal]26
Energy [kJ]108
Protein [g]1.2
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.76
Ash [g]0.83
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]4.67
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.6
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.88
Calcium, Ca [mg]105
Iron, Fe [mg]0.59
Magnesium, Mg [mg]19
Phosphorus, P [mg]43
Potassium, K [mg]274
Sodium, Na [mg]7
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.41
Copper, Cu [mg]0.06
Selenium, Se [µg]1.4
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]29.6
Thiamin [mg]0.1
Riboflavin [mg]0.15
Niacin [mg]0.46
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.07
Folate, total [µg]104
Folate, food [µg]104
Folate, DFE [µg]104
Choline, total [mg]26.5
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]86
Carotene, beta [µg]1032
Vitamin A, IU [IU]1720
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]957
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.5
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]89.1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.12
16:0 [g]0.1
18:0 [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.05
18:1 [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.35
18:2 [g]0.08
18:3 [g]0.27
Sources include : USDA

How to Cook Chinese Broccoli?

There are many ways to cook with Chinese broccoli, and in many ways, this vegetable is easier to cook than many other green vegetables in the Brassica family. You should remove the lower portion of the stems before cooking, as they can be too tough and fibrous to eat. Leave a small amount of the stem before it branches off into the leafy part of the vegetable.

The two most popular means of cooking this vegetable is stir-frying and steaming.

  • One of the most common ways to cook Chinese broccoli is to steam it and then pour a small amount of oyster sauce over the top to cut through the bitterness.
  • If you stir-fry this vegetable, experienced chefs recommend frying it with garlic, as this is a perfect complimentary flavor to the strong taste of the leaves.

Chinese Broccoli Uses

You can use Chinese broccoli in much the same way as you would use any other leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or kale. The bitter taste of this broccoli variety makes it less popular as a salad vegetable unless you pair it with a strong vinaigrette.

Most of the time, people use this broccoli in hot dishes, such as in stir-fries or as a hot side dish, heavily seasoned and spiced.

You can also prepare a rich broth soup, similar to a form of ramen, with Chinese broccoli as the main leafy ingredient. Again, this preparation will soften the bitter flavor, particularly when mixed with the right spices.

If you don’t have this ingredient on hand, there are a number of Chinese Broccoli substitutes that can work just as well in the kitchen, such as broccoli rabe and bok choy.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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