Illustrations by Margo Rivera-Weiss
Recipe by Carolyn Phillips
Farmers grow what their land and the market will support, so in diverse California, that means plenty of traditional Asian produce. The Old Oakland Friday market is particularly known for its wide selection of Asian vegetables, which home cooks with a working knowledge of Asian culinary traditions already know how to prepare. But for those who look uncomprehendingly at a bitter melon or a bunch of gailan, Lunar New Year 2019 might be just the time for a new culinary exploration.
Many thanks to Carolyn Phillips for sharing this recipe.
Gailan with Oyster Sauce (haoyou jielan) from All Under Heaven
Reprinted with permission from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Known as Chinese flowering kale in English and jielancai in Mandarin, gailan is best served in spring when it is still young and tender. If you are a devotee of dim sum, you’ll recognize gailan as one of the few green items regularly wheeled around the room. This recipe is a classic at teahouses and is extremely easy to prepare.
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound tender young gailan
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil (plus more for blanching)
6 tablespoons rice wine
6 tablespoons oyster sauce or oyster-flavored sauce
3 to 4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
If the stalks need no more than a light trim on the bottom, take care of that and place the gailan in a colander; the stalks should be 6 to 8 inches long. If, on the other hand, they have thick skins, use a paring knife to peel the skin off, as well as any tougher leaves. Rinse the veggies under running water and lightly shake dry.
Blanch the stalks in a large pot of boiling water with a bit of oil. Dunk the gailan in the boiling water for only as long as it takes to turn them a brilliant emerald. Use a Chinese spider (or slotted spoon) to pluck them out and drain. Cut the stalks in half across the middle.
Center the veggies on a serving platter and arrange the stalks parallel to one another, with the leaves all pointing in the same direction.
Add the rice wine, oyster sauce, sugar, and sesame oil to a wok and bring to a fast boil over high heat. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the gailan and serve hot.
Carolyn Phillips is a food writer, scholar, and artist. She is the author of All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China and The Dim Sum Field Guide. She is currently writing her memoirs for W. W. Norton, and her weekly blog is Madame Huang’s Kitchen.