Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (蠔油芥籣)

Learn a Chinese chef's secrets and shortcuts to get the perfect crunchy gai lan!

Prep Time
3 min
Total Time
10 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Today, Chef Daddy Lau is going to teach us how to cook Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce. 

Also known as “gaai láan” in Cantonese, this is a super easy recipe that I ate almost every single week growing up. Even for a “simple” dinner, my dad would have at least 3 or 4 courses, and gailan was always in the rotation as his go-to vegetable dish.

We'll also be going over:

  • How to pick the freshest Chinese Broccoli
  • How to store gailan at home
  • How to get the perfect, soft, crunchy texture for gailan
  • Dietary alternatives to oyster sauce

Let's get started!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 1 lb chinese broccoli
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

How to select fresh Chinese Broccoli

My parents get into a lot of detail in our video's Meal Time section, but we're looking for a few cues:

  • The stem should be a light, fresh color
  • The stem should easily snap in half
  • The leaves should be a deeper green
  • The flowers buds, if any, should be green (not yellow)

How to store Chinese Broccoli

When you get home from the store, line some trays with paper towels and lay each piece across the trays for 4-5 hours.

Poke a few holes in a plastic bag, loosely wrap the paper towels around the gai lan, and place them in the bag.

Store the bag in a vegetable compartment if you have one.

Alternatives to Oyster Sauce

If you're vegetarian or need to stay away from gluten, we have three alternatives for you!

Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

Since oyster sauce is made out of oyster extract, here are some alternatives that have a similar taste without using the actual oyster:

Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Wok Mei has a gluten-free oyster sauce, but it still contains oyster extract, so it's not vegetarian friendly.

Vegetarian + Gluten Free Oyster Sauce

Unfortunately, we don't know of a vendor that sells an oyster sauce that caters to both dietary restrictions, so you'll need to DIY the sauce.

Mix equal parts gluten free soy sauce and gluten free hoisin sauce. This isn't exactly the same as oyster sauce, but it's pretty close.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Here's a brief overview of what we'll be doing and how to get the perfect texture:

  • Boil an abundance of water
  • Add olive oil and salt to the water
  • Bring the water to a boil BEFORE adding the gailan
  • Bring to a boil again, and cook the Chinese broccoli for 1 to 2 minutes

As always, my dad says to thoroughly wash our veggies.

We'll turn our stove on to its highest heat and set the wok on top of it. Start boiling water (8 cups)​ - the amount doesn't have to be exact, but more is better.

The less time we spend cooking Chinese broccoli, the better. And one key way to achieve a faster cooking time is to use a larger volume of boiling water.

Chinese restaurants are able to cook gai lan incredibly quickly, because they use larger woks on more powerful stoves.

Next, well add olive oil (1 tbsp) and salt (1 tsp) to the water.

In my dad's words, this is almost like "make up" for the Chinese broccoli, and it helps the gai lan retain a fresh green color and adds a beautiful shimmer.

It is critical that our water starts boiling before we add the Chinese broccoli. We want to keep the cook time as short as possible.

Since every piece of gai lan is uniquely shaped, if you notice that there are pieces of gai lan that have a thicker stem, we can take a knife and cut down the middle of the stem about 1-2 inches.

This helps increase the stem's cooking surface area and helps it cook faster, and also helps all of the different sized pieces of gailan cook evenly.

Once the water is boiling, add the gai lan, and cover the wok. If they're not fully submerged, add more hot/boiling water.

In total, once the wok comes to a boil again, we'll only need to cook our gailan for 1 to 2 minutes.

As the wok starts to come to a boil, about halfway there, you can flip the gailan.

More on why we want to cook Chinese broccoli as soon as possible:

  • The less time that the gailan is sitting in the boiling water, the less nutrients it loses, and the less chlorophyll it loses.
  • It's not only healthier, but it will look more mouthwatering when we're done.

Once 1 to 2 minutes are up, uncover the wok. Cut off a piece of stem and chew on it.

If it's crunchy to your liking, you're done! If you'd prefer it to be softer, you can cook it for another 1-3 minutes.

Once you're happy with the texture, turn off the heat and transfer the gailan to a plate.

Take scissors and make 1 to 2 cuts along the stems and leaves to make the gailan easier to eat.

Then, we'll drizzle some oyster sauce (1 tbsp) and more olive oil to taste.

Call your loved ones over - time to eat!

Summary

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (蠔油芥籣)
Learn a Chinese chef's secrets and shortcuts to get the perfect crunchy gai lan!
  • Prep Time: 3 min
  • Total Time: 10 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 1 lb chinese broccoli
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
Step 1 - Guide to Gailan: An Overview↑ Jump to details
  • Here's a brief overview of what we'll be doing and how to get the perfect texture:
  • Boil an abundance of water
  • Add olive oil and salt to the water
  • Bring the water to a boil BEFORE adding the gailan
  • Bring to a boil again, and cook the Chinese broccoli for 1 to 2 minutes
Step 2 - Wash gai lan, heat wok, boil water↑ Jump to details

As always, my dad says to thoroughly wash our veggies.

We'll turn our stove on to its highest heat and set the wok on top of it. Start boiling water (8 cups)​ - the amount doesn't have to be exact, but more is better.

The less time we spend cooking Chinese broccoli, the better. And one key way to achieve a faster cooking time is to use a larger volume of boiling water.

Chinese restaurants are able to cook gai lan incredibly quickly, because they use larger woks on more powerful stoves.

Step 3 - Add olive oil, salt↑ Jump to details

Next, well add olive oil (1 tbsp) and salt (1 tsp) to the water.

In my dad's words, this is almost like "make up" for the Chinese broccoli, and it helps the gai lan retain a fresh green color and adds a beautiful shimmer.

Step 4 - Wait for boil, add gai lan, cover↑ Jump to details

It is critical that our water starts boiling before we add the Chinese broccoli. We want to keep the cook time as short as possible.

Since every piece of gai lan is uniquely shaped, if you notice that there are pieces of gai lan that have a thicker stem, we can take a knife and cut down the middle of the stem about 1-2 inches.

This helps increase the stem's cooking surface area and helps it cook faster, and also helps all of the different sized pieces of gailan cook evenly.

Once the water is boiling, add the gai lan, and cover the wok. If they're not fully submerged, add more hot/boiling water.

Step 5 - Bring to a boil, cook for 1-2 minutes↑ Jump to details

In total, once the wok comes to a boil again, we'll only need to cook our gailan for 1 to 2 minutes.

As the wok starts to come to a boil, about halfway there, you can flip the gailan.

More on why we want to cook Chinese broccoli as soon as possible:

  • The less time that the gailan is sitting in the boiling water, the less nutrients it loses, and the less chlorophyll it loses.
  • It's not only healthier, but it will look more mouthwatering when we're done.
Step 6 - Uncover wok, taste↑ Jump to details

Once 1 to 2 minutes are up, uncover the wok. Cut off a piece of stem and chew on it.

If it's crunchy to your liking, you're done! If you'd prefer it to be softer, you can cook it for another 1-3 minutes.

Step 7 - Make final touches↑ Jump to details

Once you're happy with the texture, turn off the heat and transfer the gailan to a plate.

Take scissors and make 1 to 2 cuts along the stems and leaves to make the gailan easier to eat.

Then, we'll drizzle some oyster sauce (1 tbsp) and more olive oil to taste.

Call your loved ones over - time to eat!

Step 8 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 9 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

I have so many memories eating this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son. We get into a lot of detail about how to maintain freshness, how to buy the best Chinese broccoli, differences in cooking methods, and more!

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

Watch on YouTube

About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!