This is one of my all-time favorite appetizers from any cuisine. Watch it turn those who are “bored” by vegetables into ravenous eaters of green. It’s also a happy time for the cook—since the recipe’s a breeze and should be prepared hours in advance. At dinner party time, all you have to do is pick up the platter and put it on the table. I also love the quaint language of the Chinese menu in America: there are so many tastes in here, the flavor is called “assorted.”
Serves 6 as Part of a First-Course Array
1 large bunch of broccoli
2 tablespoons peanut oil
5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons peeled and finely minced fresh gingerroot
1 tablespoon thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (Thai or Vietnamese)
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or any other vinegar)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
1. Separate the broccoli into long, fairly thin pieces; each piece should run from the stock up to a little “crown” of a broccoli floweret. Some pieces will naturally pull apart this way; but in some cases, you’ll have to cut down thicker pieces to arrive at long, thin stalks. The ideal piece is about 4 inches long, with a floweret at the top, and about 1/2 inch thick.
2. Working with a sharp knife, remove the tough peel on the outside of the stalks; leave the flowerets alone.
3. Parboil the broccoli pieces in a large pot of furiously boiling salted water for 4 minutes. Immediately pour the contents of the pot into a colander, and run very cold water over the broccoli until it cools off.
4. Place the peanut oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, and MSG (if using). Stir over heat to blend. Remove the broccoli immediately (you may place it in a bowl or on a plate). Turn off heat under the wok. Swirl in the sesame oil to blend. Adjust the seasoning.
5. For the prettiest results, arrange the broccoli pieces on an oval platter that’s just longer than two broccoli pieces laid end to end. Line up half of the broccoli pieces on one side of the platter, arranging them carefully with the flowerets toward the left edge of the platter. Place the other half on the other side of the platter, with the florets towards the right edge. The broccoli stalks should meet at the center. Pour the sauce over the broccoli, allowing the bits of garlic and ginger to collect at the center, where the broccoli stalks meet.
6. Marinate for 3 hours at room temperature, covered.
Serve as is.
This recipe is from my book Taste.
Photos: Clara S./Flickr Creative Commons & Bigstock