Sauteed Chinese Broccoli / Gai Lan (芥蘭)

Sauteed Chinese broccoli (gai lan) Chinese broccoli (gai lan) Chinese broccoli (gai lan) Gai lan / Chinese broccoli

I put up a lot of protein dishes, and although some of them have veggies in it, the typical Chinese dinner usually consists first of a soup, and then multiple dishes shared family-style, accompanied by individual bowls of rice. At least one of the dishes would be a veggie dish. So for two people, I typically make a soup, a protein dish, and a veggie dish, and I like to make big plates of each so that leftovers can be brought for lunch 🙂 If I’m spending the time, might as well make it worth it! For the most part, the popular Chinese vegetables like yu choy (油菜) are sautéed simply with oil and salt. Others like bok choy (白菜) (any type) and napa cabbage (紹菜 – siu choy) require it to be sautéed with ginger due to its cooling properties (and hence need to be neutralized with heaty ginger). I just wanted to go over gai lan because of some prep and cooking you wouldn’t do for other veggies. Mainly, the added sugar is unique to gai lan because it offsets the slight bitterness of this type of veggie.


  • Bag of gai lan
  • Big lug of oil
  • Salt to taste (~1/2tsp)
  • Dash of sugar
  • Bit of water


  • Wash a whole bag of gai lan with 2-3 rinses by separating the branches with your fingers and swooshing it back and forth in a sink of water, trying to knock off dirt in between the leaves and branches. Rinse the leaves by opening up any folded leaves.
  • Cut off the little florets from the branch (last picture) and discard. Either with scissors (what I do) or just pinch it off. Also discard any yellow leaves.
  • Cut the gai lan leaving each bite-sized piece with some branch and some leaf. Cut diagonally.
  • If the end of the stalk looks old and dry, trim it off.

*All of these prep procedures also apply to yu choy.


  • Heat up a wok on high heat then add a big lug of oil. When the oil is hot, add in the gai lan (put in a bunch at a time in order to cover the oil so that the water from the veggies don’t make the oil splatter up onto you).
  • If it’s too bulky to stir in the beginning, cover the wok for a minute to let it wilt a bit first.
  • Add salt and stir. The veggies will release some water, but if too dry, add a little water.
  • Add a dash of sugar and stir. Cover and cook for 2-3min, stirring occasionally, until it is wilted and cooked through (taste-test a thick branch).
  • Serve as is, or with oyster sauce (蠔油) on the side.


  • When purchasing gai lan and yu choy, look at the bottom of the stalk. A thinner outer membrane means it’s younger and more tender, less fibrous.
  • If the gai lan seems old or if you’ve left it in the fridge for a few days, no worries! Have the leaves and younger branches as above, but save the large stalks for use in fried rice. Just chop them thinly before use.