Thursday 30 September 2010

Gai Lan with Wasabi Soy Dip

I made this, honest I did!
This is the last of my Beijing posts and to sign off, I'm going to do something a little different by recreating a dish that I ate at a restaurant. This isn't something that I'd normally attempt, as one of the main reasons I eat out is to try food that I can't make at home. That and the fact that I'm a bit crap in the kitchen!

Anyway, this simple dish of gai lan with wasabi soy dip that I sampled at Beijing's Modern China (金满庭) seemed easy enough to have a crack at. The unusual thing about this dish is that the gai lan is served ice-cold. In fact in the restaurant, it was served on top of some ice in a fancy dish.

I feel a bit silly posting this recipe now, as this is a dish that's best enjoyed at the height of summer rather than at the onset of autumn. Just imagine how refreshing the ice-cold crunchy gai lan stalks enlivened by a spiky wasabi soy dip would be on a sweltering day.

Gai lan with Wasabi Soy Dip
6 stalks of gai lan
a slice of ginger
wasabi paste
light soy
ice cubes

This dish is all about preparation so before you start cooking, set up an ice bath with loads of ice cubes topped up with cold water.

Wash the gai lan and trim off the tough bottoms and loose bits. Stick into a pan of salted boiling water with a slice of ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove the gai lan and plunge into the ice bath so that it stops cooking. Leave it in the ice bath for a while until it gets ice cold.

Shake off the excess water and plate up the gai lan. Prepare the wasabi and soy dip to serve on the side.

Some Hints
My first attempt at this dish wasn't a total success, as some of the gai lan stalks weren't as crunchy as I would've liked. On further analysis, these were the thinner stalks as the thicker stalks were al dente. Therefore, I recommend that you choose stalks of a similar thickness and adjust cooking time accordingly.

Looking back, my ice bath was also a bit inadequate, as I should've loaded it up with more ice. This would've stopped the cooking process and got the temperature down a lot quicker resulting in crunchier veg. Another factor to consider is the quality of the produce. The gai lan I used was fresh but I can imagine this dish being a bit of a shocker if you used tired vegetables on the verge of wilting.

About Gai Lan
Gai lan (芥蘭/芥兰), like many Chinese vegetables is known by a multitude of names in English, the most common of which are kai-lan and Chinese broccoli. This vegetable is widely available in Chinese supermarkets but isn't as common in High St supermarkets, although the likes of Sainsbury's and Waitrose might stock it.

Gai lan is very common in Chinese cuisine, in particular Cantonese cuisine as it originates from the south of China. Popular dishes that feature this vegetable include steamed gai lan with oyster sauce (蠔油芥蘭) and stir-fried gai lan with garlic (蒜茸芥蘭).

About The Dish
Modern China, where I sampled this dish, is ostensibly a Cantonese restaurant but one where they obviously like to experiment. My colleague who ordered this dish is originally from Hong Kong but she's never seen it in her hometown or anywhere else for that matter. Her suspicion is that this dish is unique to this Beijing restaurant.


  1. Oooh, nice one. And you can't be all _that_ crap in the kitchen — your hints sound spot-on to me.

    Bob likes both broccoli and wasabi, so I'll have to make this for him. (And I like 芥蘭 much, much more than calabrese.)

  2. Gai lan (along with dou miao) is my favorite veg dish to order in Chinese restaurants. I must confess I've never tried cooking it at home, so will try out this recipe asap.

  3. Love the look of the Gail lan - actually the recipe is a little more complex than I thought it would be.

  4. Love it! I can see myself serving this on a 40 c day!

  5. Kake - believe me when I tell you that it's taken me years to get to a level of basic competence! Any useful hints, I've picked up along the way are from the telly!

    A-in-L - my Chinese restaurant vegetable of choice is pak choi closely followed by tung choi (morning glory) and my fave preparation is stir-fried with garlic! At home, I only really cook pak choi but this dish has encouraged me to try cooking other Chinese veg at home.

    GC - it's not too difficult, you just have to make sure you have lots of ice in!

    3HT - I just realised that it's Springtime down under and this is an ideal dish as the weather gets warmer!

  6. I've had this veg a few times in restaurants in Hong Kong, but mainly with oyster sauce. Delish...

  7. This looks delicious, and you don;t need summer, just crank up the heating to max and enjoy ;-)

    Are Gai-Lan anything like Choi Sum? I would imagine that, even if you van;t get hold of it, you could use tender stem broccoli instead.

    I like the idea of recreating a dish from a restaurant - more interesting ways of blogging after your Summer break. Good job!

  8. Dave - truthfully, I'm not normally a great gai lan fan but I do like this dish.

    Gworm - gai lan isn't really like choi sum but there's no reason why you can't use the latter in this dish. Tenderstem is a great shout and I'd like to also suggest asparagus too.

  9. I love this new Noodles style... Please please trying and make your own XLB... It has to be worth trying?

  10. Tom - I don't think I'll be making a regular habit of recreating restaurant food! And whilst I have dabbled in making dim sum and dumplings, XLB is well out of my comfort zone!

  11. That looks good! I'm thinking on experimenting on making a wasabi cream sauce. But I'm hesitant that it might be too spicy for me and make me cry.

  12. krissy - welcome and thanks! I think you should try and make the wasabi cream past - what's the worst that could happen?