GIANT Gai Lan sightings

Shocked and excited to see a mound of huge Gai Lan in SF Chinatown recently. Gai Lan is a favorite vegetable, especially the sweet crunchy stalk. Had to buy some to experiment.

Peeled the fibrous outer layer, chopped and simply steamed. Topped with oil, s&p, sesame and oyster sauce. Quite delicious. Reminds of Kolrabi.

That was three weeks ago. On a recent shopping run, saw at least three venders offering. The quality has gotten even better.

A nice veggie to add to the rotation. Along with the no longer “new” Chinese Cauliflower. Has anyone tried the big Gai Lan, or even seen it for sale?


Is it a new variety or rather, over fertilized?

Dunno if it is new, but surely a different than usual variety.

It can’t just be a usual species allowed to run wild. That would result in a much more tough and fibrous plant.

I’m surprised that we have not even seen this in Asia. Walking for food in local markets is one of our favorite pastimes, definitely would have noticed if available.

Gonna get some more and stir fry with some pork toro (neck meat). Yeah!

1 Like

what is it? What is the taste? (sorry, just curious)

Edit (had to google, too curious to wait): (Wiki)

Gai lan ( Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra )[[1]] is the Cantonese name and jie lan is the Mandarin name for a vegetable that is also known as Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale . It is a leaf vegetable with thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems, and flower heads similar to but much smaller than broccoli, another *[Brassica oleracea] cultivar, but gai lan is in the group alboglabra (from Latin albus “white” and glabrus “hairless”). Its flavor is very similar to that of broccoli, but slightly more bitter. It is also noticeably stronger.

Outside the Asian community, Gai Lan is usually referred to as Chinese Broccoli. It’s one of staple veggies at Dim Sum, but expensive (relatively).

When I was younger, it tasted a bit bitter to me, not a favorite. As I’ve (ahem) matured, really enjoy the crunch of the stalk and pleasant chew of the leaves.

The leaves on these gargantuan ones are not different than the little ones. The stalks are crunchy and almost sweet.

I tossed some raw pieces in my salad last night and the crunch worked great with the leafy greens and avocado.

If over fertilised they will grow big quickly without getting fibrous. But I believe it more as another variety. Or maybe it is a crossed between 2 vegetables?! You should ask next time when buying. The part I liked the best is the young leaves with the flowers… I think I haven’t had that for a long time.

I’ll have my wife ask next time. The budding tips on these were great. Since I was cooking, I appropriated them all for myself. oops…

1 Like

Thanks - I have had it before - I always assumed it was the stem/stalk of American broccoli - I’ll have to look for it.

The stems look similar, especially this giant one. But Gai Lan is (usually) more bitter.

Hope your wife isn’t reading HO. :grin:

Is there a certain season for Gai Lan? Maybe I will try to grow some.

No problemo with the wife. When she likes some food, she has no qualms about taking all the choice pieces. Totally unlike the manners I learned. :slight_smile: We never fight over who gets the last or best bit of food. Now, wine and liquor, that is a VERY different story.

Growing Gai Lan? That would be great! We see GL in SF most of the year, although they seem to be better in the colder months. Then again, that may be because Chinatown does not refrigerate produce, so the summer heat (be it as it may in SF) will speed up the deterioration of vegetables that is not sold quickly.

In the past, spinach and bak choi is winter crops, now, they are available all year round.

I never grow Gai Lan before, just bak choi, it was easy, I grew in a pot on the shady external window sill in the Paris rental, in autumn…Problem: they were matured at the same time, we got overdose and didn’t do it again.

1 Like

I have seen these in the past, even just a month ago. Not a big fan of these huge ones.

1 Like

As is the case with several other vegetable “families” (and for that matter, domesticated cats and dogs), most of the myriad “cabbage family” vegetables fall into only a small handful of species, but there are many, many very different forms (subspecies/strains/cultivars, depending on your taxonomical perspective.)

This “giant gai lan” seems to be a little more seasonal than most of the more common Chinese brassicas, but I don’t think it’s at all new, and I’m reasonably sure it doesn’t involve “bizarre” cultivation techniques, it’s just rarely if ever seen except at specifically-Chinese produce/grocery stores. (Ehen I first “discovered” it myself, I ended up being unable to find even a single reference to it on the Web in English). Not being a huge fan of especially “crunchy” foods, I haven’t been a repeat buyer myself, but it moves pretty quickly at the stores in my extended neighborhood, so I guess a lot of people do like it…

As is true of broccoli (and broccoli rabe) in my experience, it’s the flower buds and stalks that are usually the more bitter part of gai lan. I’m sensitive to and not a fan of bitter foods, but I’ve never found the stems of gai lan unpleasantly bitter…


Broccoli rabe is definitely the more bitter of them. A combination of broccoli rabe with sharp provolone on a roast pork sandwich is something uniquely loved by many.