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Chinese Greens in Oyster Sauce

Saturday, 1 August 2009

So far, for me, it's been an all-raw vegetable summer. I haven't craved my veggies sauteed or stir-fried - not once - until I made eyes with the Chinese broccoli, also known as gai lan, at the Green Acres farm stand at Green City Market. It's run by farmers Beth Sakaguchi Eccles and her husband Brett, who specialize in Asian and heirloom vegetables. Beth's grandfather was a Japanese immigrant who farmed in Indiana and trucked his veggies in to sell at Chicago's Chinatown back in the Thirties. Now she and her family have carried on the tradition and are adored by restaurant chefs and home cooks alike.

This is a dish I almost always order whenever I visit Chinatown or Little Vietnam and I have to say, I re-created it perfectly at home. The smell was pure heaven and it was shocking how good and how easy it was.

Oyster sauce, however, is a curious thing and often loaded with "ingredients of questionable integrity." I chose KAME brand because it seemed the cleanest out of all of them to me. No chemicals to speak of and lower in sodium. Oyster sauce is easy to find at mainstream grocery stores in the Asian/ethnic aisles and also at Asian markets.

If you're not interested in eating this in a Jethro-style cereal bowl, all by it's lonesome like I did, it would go beautifully over jasmine rice and paired with grilled flank steak rubbed with say, Chinese five spice powder, brown sugar, cayenne, fresh garlic and salt? Braised pork might be nice too.

Chinese Greens in Oyster Sauce

This recipe is adapted ever-so-slightly from Food & Wine magazine by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid who wrote the exquisite cookbook, Hot Sour Salty Sweet:


1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used water)
1 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine, dry white wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce ( I used wheat-free Tamari)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
3 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound gai lan*, sliced crosswise at 3-inch intervals, thickest stalks halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water


Before you begin, make sure you set up and prep all your ingredients and have them handy by the flame - the cooking process happens very quickly and there's no time to chop or prep between steps.

In a small bowl, combine the broth with the oyster sauce, wine, soy sauce, sugar and salt.

Set a large wok (I used a large straight sided All-Clad pan because I don't have a wok, so no worries, just use your heaviest saute pan) over high heat. When it's hot, add the oil and swirl to coat. After 20 seconds, add the scallions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add the gai lan and stir-fry for 2 minutes; stir and press a few times against the pan. Add the sauce in the bowl and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue stir-frying until the sauce thickens, about 15 seconds. Transfer the greens to a small platter and serve hot.

* If you can't find gai lan, substitute broccoli rabe, mustard greens or spinach.

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