I want to start a movement now to make gai lan the new kale.
Gai lan (pronounced GUY-LAHN) is also known as Chinese broccoli and you see them often at the Asian grocery stores. They’re a dark, leafy green with texture just like broccoli but they don’t have the mushroom-style caps of broccoli. This is one of my favorite vegetables to eat because of its crunchy texture and deep flavors.
Ironically, I hated gai lan growing up in Hawaii. My Mom would serve either gai lan or choy sum, which is like a lighter version of gai lan. I would opt for the choy sum because they were easier to eat; I found gai lan with its thick skin to be chewy. But after moving to the Bay Area where gai lan is grown nearby and widely available, I found the fresh version here more easy on the palate than the thick skin version in Hawaii. So now I eat it a lot.
Once when I was out with a friend after a long day food exploring, I was saying how I wanted a simple salad for dinner. She suggested I go to Chinatown to find my ingredients for a salad, but I nixed that idea, thinking it would be hard to find the right ingredients. So that got me thinking of making an Asian-inspired salad with ingredients all found in Chinatown.
So I recently roasted a bunch of gai lan (because roasting vegetables is the new thing) and tossed it with forbidden rice. This is a discovery for me, too. Forbidden rice is the black rice you see at specialty stores. They were once rare and only eaten by the emperors, which is why it’s known as forbidden rice. They’re a bit more pricey, but when cooked they have almost a nutty flavor, like very hearty brown rice.
I added some shiitake mushrooms and dressed everything in a miso-lime vinaigrette and I got myself a new favorite hearty salad. Enjoy!
Roasted Gai Lan and Forbidden Rice Salad
Makes two servings
1 bunch of gai lan or Chinese broccoli
1 cup of Forbidden black rice
1/2 cup of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
chopped peanuts for garnish
1 T miso paste
1 T sugar
1 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
1/4 light-tasting oil like virgin olive oil
juice from one lime
Sriracha hot sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Rinse rice and cook in rice cooker until done. (If you don’t have a rice cooker, use a pot and add enough water to cover rice with a 1/4 inch of water above the rice level, then bring to a boil and quickly reduce and cook until fluffy, about 25 minutes.)
Wash and pat dry your gai lan. Remove some of the inner baby leaves for garnish later.
Toss gai lan with olive oil and season with sea salt. Place on a flat roasting tray and cook until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. (Note: The leaves will char, which I like to use as crunchy elements in the salad. But if you don’t, cut off the leaves and cook them separately, removing them from the oven earlier.) Remove tray from oven and let gai lan cool.
In a small saute pan, sweat the mushrooms over medium high heat with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt. You want the mushrooms to “perspire” or release some of the moisture so that they’re not as mushy but more meaty in texture. About 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
When all your ingredients are cooled to room temperature, assemble the salad. In small bowl, mix dressing ingredients all together, and then toss the gai lan, rice and mushrooms. On a plate, use the reserved fresh gai lan baby leaves as a bed or on the side and then add your rice salad. Finish off by garnishing with chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.
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