How Do I Choose the Best Chinese Broccoli?

Kristeen Moore

Chinese broccoli is a staple in many Asian dishes, but it can also be chosen as an alternative to traditional western forms of the crucifer vegetable. Also commonly referred to as kai lan or gai lan, the best form of this food is picked before its flowers bloom. Quality kai lan should also possess thick and firm stalks. Fresh gai lan has a short shelf life, and it is best to refrigerate any leftovers for the best cooking results. If Chinese broccoli is not commonplace in your local supermarket, then the best venues to purchase the food include an Asian food store or an online outlet.

Broccolini is a cross between Chinese broccoli and broccoli.
Broccolini is a cross between Chinese broccoli and broccoli.

Kai lan is known for its flowers in the middle of the vegetable’s leaves, but the best versions of this type of produce item are picked from the farm before the buds bloom. When looking for the vegetable in a store or farmer’s market, the freshest versions have closed flower buds. You can still choose a stalk that has already-bloomed flowers, but keep in mind that it will have a shorter life. Also, avoid Chinese broccoli that has flowers that have already bloomed and broken off.

Like other forms of broccoli, kai lan is known for its firm and thick stalks. When choosing the best Chinese broccoli, feel the stalks in order to determine their firmness. Vegetables that have limp stems should not be purchased because this is indicative of a spoiling product. Avoid vegetables that have discolored stalks, or ones with brown spots.

Choosing fresh Chinese broccoli is important in terms of quality and taste, and the best culinary results are often achieved when the vegetable is utilized immediately. Since many shoppers do not purchase food on a daily basis, then there is a risk that the vegetable can spoil before use. In order to maintain the best fresh-picked gai lan, it is vital that you refrigerate it immediately if you plan to cook it at a later time. Generally, fresh Chinese broccoli may be refrigerated for three to five days.

Gai lan is best purchased fresh from the grocery store, but the vegetable is not widely available in all regions. In some cases, you will have to buy the broccoli from a specialty store, preferably one that offers various Chinese vegetables. Another option is to order the food from the Internet — if you plan to cook with it often, then you can usually get reduced prices for buying it in bulk from an online outlet.

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