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SO THERE I was, shopping at Mitsuwa, our local Japanese supermarket, for sashimi, inari sushi, salmon bento, and pickled cucumber. It’s a full marketplace, complete with Books Kinokuniya, boutique shops, and a food court.
I delight in cruising Mitsuwa’s aisles. This time around, my attention was caught by its produce department’s Chinese broccoli and its meat aisle’s Maple Leaf Duck Bacon. I grant that neither of these is Japanese, but it struck me that each had culinary promise. Indeed, it turns out that they’re a combination not unfamiliar to several cuisines.
Gai lan, ID’ed as Yu Choy in Mitsuwa, is a leaf vegetable used in Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cooking. By the way, you may have heard of its vegetable kin Broccolini. This natural (not Genetically Modified) hybrid of gai lan and traditional broccoli was developed as aspabroc in Salinas, California, in 1993; the Broccolini moniker came in 1998.
The technique is standard Chinese stir-fry: everything in a single pan, adding ingredients in reverse order of their cooking time.
Wash, drain, and trim the bottoms off the gai lan. Cut them into 2 1/2-in. pieces, separating the leaves and buds from the stalks (which take a longer time to stir-fry). By the way, the recipe would work just fine with traditional broccoli or Broccolini.
Combine the soy sauce, sake, and sugar; save for the finale. Other variations could use bottled oyster sauce, or any other stir-fry sauce for that matter.
Peel and dice the garlic and ginger.
Cut the bacon slices into 1-in. pieces (most easily done if it’s frozen a bit). Fry these slowly, turning them once, in the wok until they begin to render their fat. (Add only a dash of sesame oil if needed; the duck fat alone worked fine for me).
Add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until these give off their aromas, perhaps 15 seconds.
Add the gai lan stalks and stir-fry until they turn bright green, perhaps 1 1/2 minutes. Add the leaves and buds. Stir-fry until they cook down and start to turn limp, maybe another minute.
Stir in the soy sauce mixture. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the gai lan stalks are just tender. Serve hot.
I sampled it on rice. The leftover will accompany lobster fritters tonight.
Itadakimasu! Bon appétit! Buon appetito! I must learn some Mandarin. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017