Advancing in her years and concerned about passing on her culinary secrets to me, Mom will often call me into the kitchen to watch her prepare food. I think part of it is that she wants me to be able to cook the favorite dishes that I’ve enjoyed her making most of my life. Another part is more subconscious and subtle. She knows that by passing on her kitchen knowledge to me, I’ll remember her more vividly when she isn’t around to prepare them anymore. It’s the thing most Asian mothers have done for their daughters for generations. But since she has only a son, I benefit. And it helps that I love to cook.
One of her kitchen secrets that she’s instilled in me is a method for preparing American or Chinese broccoli in stir-fry. If you try to stir-fry broccoli, sometimes it’s difficult to get the stems cooked as much as the florets are. Mom’s secret: Blanch the broccoli before stir-frying it. Blanching the broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes until it turns bright green, then draining it and adding it to stir-fry will ensure that the broccoli is evenly cooked but still has a crunchy texture. Our sauce of choice for broccoli stir-fry at home is a combination of oyster and hoisin sauce. You need to cook the broccoli in the wok only long enough to coat it with the sauce and mix it with the other vegetables or meat that you’re using. The same blanching technique can be applied to carrot slices when you want to use them in stir-fry. But Mom’s technique can be applied to a more Western treatment of broccoli as well. I love the contrast between crunchy garlic and tender but still crunchy broccoli, savory bacon and a touch of sweet and tart balsamic vinegar, so I’ll often use Mom’s technique with this combination of ingredients.
From time to time in this blog, I’ll pass my mom’s culinary secrets to you so that you can enjoy them too. Thanks, Mom. I love you.
Serves 4 in combination with another stir-fry, or can be used as a side to grilled steaks or chicken
- Half a pound (227 g.) of broccoli, rinsed and sliced into pieces along the stems of florets
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) olive oil
- 4 strips bacon, sliced into thin pieces
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blanch the broccoli as previously described for a few minutes, drain and set aside.
- In a wok, heat oil over high heat and sauté bacon until it’s golden, add garlic and continue cooking until garlic is golden.
- Add broccoli and balsamic vinegar, stirring until broccoli is thoroughly coated with oil and vinegar.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.