Godly Greens: Chinese Broccoli in an oyster and rice-wine sauce.
A plate with a pile of fresh, steaming vegetables and a big saucer filled with a luscious sauce. Food doesn’t get any better than this. My chinese broccoli in an oyster and rice-wine sauce is just the right thing for warming your heart and body after a night of fun and a few too many drinks. The tender chinese broccoli, called kai lan, dressed with a most aromatic sauce made out of vegan oyster sauce and the decadent shiaoxing wine, infused with garlic, shallots and grilled red chilli is a perfect dish for a sunny Sunday lunch. Have a go at this 10 minute recipe and you won’t eat your greens any other way.
Day-to-day adventures come in small doses. They lurk behind cupboards, hide in the isles of supermarkets and sneak up on you at traffic lights. I have a busy schedule these days and regardless of how much I want to, travelling is currently not an option. The routine of getting up, going to the gym, crouching away for hours in the library and dragging myself back to bed can become quite boring over time, so that – every now and then – I need something to spice of my life a little. Some days more literal, than others. I love strolling through the isles of our local asian super-supermarket. Looking at things I have never heard of let alone tasted. I try to pick up something new and exciting every week. Mostly vegetables and I made it a habit of not checking with the internet on what I just bought, until after I cooked, ate and digested it. I briefly talked about expectation biases and food when I made my pita stuffed with parsley and chrysanthemum salad. My usual “explorer routine” consists of me nibbling on tiny bits of the greens I am about to eat. If they seem digestible as they are, raw and pure, I’ll give that a go. You know, being adventurous and all. More often than not, however, I end up steaming or cooking my greens until just tender. The star of this week is an unassuming beauty. Thick green leaves, an even thicker stalk and little florets: Kai Lan surely doesn’t look like much when you pick it up from its shelf-bed in the vegetable isle. But the shy cousin of the good old broccoli really shines when you give it some heat, love and a good sauce.
Today’s dish is one of the fast ones. Very fast. It’s probably also very good for you (but then again, isn’t all food?). If you think a bit ahead, then this shouldn’t take you much longer than 10 minutes. Cook the rice, cook the vegetables, make the sauce at roughly the same time. My Chinese Broccoli in an oyster and rice-wine sauce, is a bit of a posh dish. The inspiration for this comes, yet again, from the glorious Nigel Slater and his book “Tender Vol. 1”. If you don’t already own it, you should give Santa a hint. Kai Lan is more intense than broccoli, even though they come from the same family. It’s tenderness is superbly stressed by my sweet oyster and rice-wine sauce. The subtle richness of shiaoxing wine, the depth of oyster sauce and the lusciousness of sweet soy sauce make this sauce the perfect accompaniment for any green vegetable. If you can’t get a hold of Kai Lan, give kale a go or, if you must, broccoli. Try to get yourself a good vegan oyster-sauce for this dish, so that even your vegetarian friends can love it (If you don’t have any, get yourself a few of those too).
Chinese Broccoli in an oyster and rice-wine sauce.
Kai Lan (also known as Chinese kale or broccoli - or either kale or broccoli) Garlic Shallot Grilled pepper Sesame oil Vegetable oil Shiaoxing Wine (Rice wine) Oyster sauce Sweet soy sauce
Wash the Kai Lan trim off any wilted leaves. In a large pot boil it for five to ten minutes or until the thick stems are tender. Alternatively you could steam them, using a colander or steamer.
Finely slice the garlic and chop shallot (for a 300 to 400 g load, I use one clove of garlic and one small shallot). Add vegetable oil and sesame oil (I use one tablespoon of the plain and one teaspoon of the vegetable oil) to a sauce pan, add the sliced garlic and chopped shallots to the oil and allow to warm up. They shouldn’t brown, but turn translucent and ooze out their flavour into the oil. Add 1 part of shioxing wine (about half a cup), half a part of oyster sauce (a quarter of a cup) and a quarter of a part of sweet soy sauce. Allow everything to come to a boil and add a bit (one teaspoon) of finely diced grilled chilli. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, make sure to give the wine a bit of time before tasting so that all alcohol can evaporate. Allow the sauce to thicken slightly, and spoon it over the kai lan. Serve with rice and enjoy.