This is an easy and delicious stir-fry recipe for Chinese broccoli or kailan with garlic and oyster sauce. You can have this ready in under 15 minutes, which makes it perfect for your busy days. The stir-fry sauce recipe can be used to cook many of your favourite Asian greens.
I’ve pinned down a really good stir-fry sauce for my favourite Chinese vegetables like this kailan with garlic and oyster sauce. It’s taken quite a bit of tweaking but I’m really satisfied with how it’s developed.
So I’m really excited to be able to share this wonderfully versatile and delicious garlic-infused oyster sauce. You can use this and adapt it for your favourite Asian greens or mixed vegetables.
What is Kailan or Chinese broccoli?
Kailan or gailan is the Chinese name for Chinese broccoli or Chinese kale as it’s commonly known in most English-speaking Western countries. This is a dark green, leafy vegetable that has nothing in common with the more popularly-touted kale.
Kailan has firm, juicy stems and delicate leaves, which makes it a great option for steaming or stir frying. It has a complex, distinct flavour with a slightly bitter bite, but just barely. Most of the time, kailan can taste sweet if you prepare and cook it well.
Usually, the stems in older kailan are tougher and more fibrous. But this is more an outer layer which is usually peeled or sliced away to reveal the tender inner stem. If you buy baby kailan, you don’t have to worry about this as the stems are thinner, tender and sweeter.
Kailan is very prominent in Chinese cuisine. In fact, whenever I think of vegetable dishes to order when eating out in Chinese restaurants, kailan tends to roll off my tongue without thinking!
About this garlic-infused oyster sauce
This is one of those sauces where a little bit of this and a little bit of that all come together to make an exceptionally robust, full-bodied and flavourful oyster sauce. However, the key to the flavour in the sauce is garlic oil.
Garlic oil is simply oil that is infused with the aroma and flavour of fried garlic. And I’m going to show you how easy it is to make your own garlic oil. This is such an essential flavouring for my stir-fries, as well as an oil dressing to drizzle over porridge or congee, noodles and soups.
This sauce can be thickened to your desired consistency, or not at all if you like. I know some of us prefer our sauces and gravies thick, gooey and starchy to the hilt. And some of us love our veggies in a slurpy, soupy sauce.
This sauce is more the consistency of a smooth glaze. Just thick enough to thinly coat your vegetables, and to spoon over rice.
I particularly enjoy pairing this sauce with kailan, it goes without saying. But its also great with other varieties including Hong Kong kailan, baby kailan, as well as cai xin, nai bai, bak choy, xiao bai cai, as well as mixed vegetables.
Ingredients for the perfect oyster sauce
After experimenting with varying proportions of the usual Asian sauces and seasonings, I’ve finally arrived at my perfect garlic-infused oyster sauce recipe.
Please don’t be thrown off or feel overwhelmed by the list of ingredients. These are all your usual pantry staples and are super easy to mix together. Every ingredient is key, adding nuances of flavour in layers, which is why I’m promising you this amazing oyster sauce!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Oyster sauce
- Light soy sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Chinese Shaoxing wine
- Garlic oil (see below)
- Sesame oil
- Ground pepper
- Thickening solution made with corn starch and water
How to make garlic oil
So, you’ve probably heard me stress how garlic oil is such an essential seasoning in Chinese stir fries. It’s what will make your stir-fries all the more delish!
So my tip is to use cooking oils that are infused with the flavours of garlic or shallots. Traditionally, lard was used to flavour most stir-fries. But while I enjoy lard, it’s not something I want to use frequently in my cooking.
Here’s how to make garlic oil in quick and easy steps
- Heat up a small saucepan filled with enough oil over low-medium heat.
- When hot, fry minced garlic until they turn golden brown.
- Pour the fried garlic bits and oil through a wire sieve into a heatproof bowl. Tip out the fried garlic in the sieve onto paper towels to cool. These will crisp up nicely in a matter of minutes. Once cool, store the fried garlic in an air-tight container.
- The strained oil is now infused with the flavour of garlic! Once cool, store in an air-tight jar for future use.
This adds no more than 2 to 3 minutes to your preparation time, but is so worth it! And to boot, you get crispy, crunchy, garlicky morsels as you tuck into your veggies. Another bonus, the attractive specks of golden brown garlic nibs warm up the colour of your dish.
You might like to check out some useful tips on how to execute a good stir-fry in my post on stir-fried nai bai with garlic. Do read this post as well if you’re looking for a lightly-flavoured or clear-coloured sauce to accompany your vegetables.
Like this recipe? Here are more egg and vegetable dishes you might like:
- Cantonese Stir-Fried Bitter Gourd Omelette
- Stir-Fried Hairy Gourd with Mung Bean Vermicelli
- Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic (Dou Miao)
- Steamed Bitter Gourd Stuffed with Minced Pork
- Stir-fried Bean Sprouts with Salted Fish
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
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Stir-fried Kailan with Garlic and Oyster Sauce
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 250 g kailan
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the Sauce
- 1 - 1 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
- ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp Chinese wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp sugar
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- ⅛ tsp salt
To thicken sauce:
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 1 ½ tbsp water
- Slice off the tough ends, and cut kailan in halves, lengthwise. Wash thoroughly in a few changes of water to remove soil particles and grit. (If using other varieties of kailan, please read Recipe Notes below). Drain off excess water and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients and stir to mix well. In a separate bowl, combine corn flour and water.
- Heat up a wok over medium heat. When wok is hot, reduce to low heat, add cooking oil.
- When oil is hot, tip in the minced garlic and stir fry continuously until garlic just starts to turn a light golden brown.
- Turn off the heat and remove garlic immediately with a slotted spoon (Note: Garlic burns quickly once it turns golden brown, and will taste bitter). Leave the garlic-infused oil in the wok.
- Heat up the wok with garlic-infused oil over high heat.
- When hot again, tip in the vegetables all at once and stir fry vigorously for 1 minute, or until stems and leaves just start to soften and turn limp.
- Add the sauce, and thicken with corn starch solution to desired consistency. Remember to stir the cornstarch solution vigorously before adding in.
- Dish out onto serving plate, garnish with fried garlic bits, and serve immediately.
- Depending on the variety of kailan you are cooking, you may need to discard or peel the outer, tougher fibrous layer off the kailan stems using a short-bladed kitchen knife. This will also allow the kailan stems to cook through quickly, and minimise the risk of overcooking.
- If you are cooking a long-stemmed variety where the stems are to be cooked as well, it is a good practice to separate the leaves from the stems. When ready to stir fry, fry the stems first until slightly softened, followed by the leaves.
- Alternatively, after peeling the outer, tough fibrous layer, you may slice the stems thinly if stems are quite thick. This way, the stems and leaves can be tipped into the hot oil at the same time.
- You can combine sauce ingredients and corn starch solution together in a bowl. However, it will be harder to control the consistency of the sauce. With experience, you can eyeball how much thickening solution is needed for the amount of sauce you prepare.