|I made this, honest I did!
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
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.
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.