Simple Choy Sum & Garlic Stir-Fry (Cai Lan Xao Toi)

Simple Choy Sum and Garlic Stir-Fry

Simple Choy Sum and Garlic Stir-Fry

No meal is complete without a vegetable side dish. For me, I must have some sort of vegetable or I just feel bleh for the day. One vegetable that I always pick up at the Asian supermarket that I know is tasty, versatile and will last in the fridge for a couple of days is choy sum. For a quick vegetable side dish on a busy weeknight, I make a simple choy sum and garlic stir-fry (Cai Lan Xao Toi).

The main seasoning here is salt. Sea salt to be exact because we all know other salt is pure crap. The other seasoning is a bit of a cheat that I will not deny, stock powder (Hat Nem), which is granules of bouillon, a must-have in Vietnamese home cooking. For a vegetarian version, I use the mushroom stock powder. Most times, I just use chicken stock powder. Lastly, I add sesame oil for a nutty aroma and a sprinkle of white pepper for subtle spicy kick. To finish it off, I top my stir-fry with fried garlic for that extra crunchy texture. This stir-fry is filling, delicious, and most importantly, I can feel good about myself after the meal.

What is Choy Sum?

Choy sum is a green stalky and leafy vegetable that is common in Asian cooking. It also known as Chinese Brocolli or Chinese Kale. In Vietnamese, it’s called Rau Cai Lan. When the stalk grows older, it bears small yellow blossom, which is very common to see in the supermarkets. You can rely on the presence of the small yellow blossoms to spot choy sum in the supermarkets. However, it’s best to get them without the blossoms as they are younger and tender.

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Simple Choy Sum & Garlic Stir-Fry (Cai Lan Xao Toi)

Serves 3-5


  • 1 large bunch choy sum (about 1 lb; trim off ends and wash thoroughly)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic(peel and mince)
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons stock powder (mushroom, pork or chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons fried garlic (optional)


  1. In a large wok, bring water to a rolling boil and blanch the choy sum for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Place a colander in the sink and drain the content of the wok into the colander, discarding the water. Rinse blanched choy sum with cold running water to stop the cooking process then drain dry. Set aside.
  3. Dry the wok and bring it back to the stove. Add vegetable oil and garlic. Saute on medium high until golden brown.
  4. Add blanched choy sum. Season with sea salt, stock powder, sesame oil and white pepper. Gently toss until evenly mixed.
  5. Garnish with fried garlic and serve.