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April 29, 2006

Chinese Flowering Cabbage

So, it turns out that I was incorrect in my earlier entry when I said that I thought that gai lan was the Chinese name for Chinese flowering cabbage. Gai lan is Chinese kale. Chinese flowering cabbage seems to be most commonly called choy sum, though I've also seen choy sum applied to what I would call bok choy. The nomenclature of the Asian greens is very confusing.

Choy sum looks a lot like a kinder, gentler broccoli rabe. (In fact, some sources seem to indicate that choy sum is broccoli rabe, but I'm dubious.) It has thinnish stalks with lots of long, rounded leaves, and little clusters of closed buds that look like tiny, loose broccoli florets. The odd bud here and there has opened into a yellow or white flower. (I got the kind with white flowers. Next time, I'll grab some with yellow flowers and see if there is any difference.)

I cooked my choy sum very simply. I cut off the ends of the stems, and then cut everything into 1 and a half inch lengths. I heated oil in a pan until it was really, really hot, and then dumped in the choy sum and stir-fried it for about 5 minutes, until it was cooked through but still bright green and slightly crunchy. Then I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper. (I ate some of the leftovers the next day with soy sauce, and I'll admit, it tastes better with soy sauce.)

How does it taste? Somewhere between broccoli and asparagus, with a hint of cabbage-y flavor. I loved it. Mr. Spaceling, who is less than fond of vegetables in the brassica family, allowed that it was not poisonous.

I recommend trying it out if you're looking for a simple vegetable side dish that's more exotic than broccoli, and less expensive than asparagus. You'll probably need to go to an Asian supermarket, or to a farmers' market that to find it, though.

Posted by spaceling at April 29, 2006 04:35 PM

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