I've been eating at Chinese take-out restaurants lately, mostly to save money and still get a big portion of food. When I get the beef and broccoli and lo mein, I notice that the broccoli is a lot harder and crunchier, compared to the broccoli that I get from salad bars at the grocery stores and supermarkets (which is considerably softer and more crumbly in texture). Does this indicate that the broccoli served at Chinese take-out places is of lower quality? For example, could the crunchy texture indicate that I'm eating genetically-modified broccoli?

(If it matters, I live in New York City.)

  • 2
    For comparison, how would you describe the texture of supermarket broccoli when a) raw, b) stir fried in a hot wok for a few minutes? Have you checked whether what these restaurants use as "broccoli" might be Gai Lan (it would be the authentic thing to use actually!)? Feb 8, 2018 at 9:09
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    Can you clarify in your question whether the broccoli you are talking about in supermarket salad bars is cooked rather than raw?
    – Spagirl
    Feb 8, 2018 at 10:56
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    @D.Hutchinson Why are you guessing? It's your question, are you saying you are not sure if it is cooked or not? Im asking for clarification because 'soft' and 'crumbly' are not words I would ever associate with raw broccoli. broccoli can be both cold and cooked. You have compared broccoli in two situations, how does the Chinese take-out broccoli compare to broccoli you have eaten in other situations? This site has a handy picture of cooked and raw broccoli which may help. dish.allrecipes.com/all-about-broccoli
    – Spagirl
    Feb 8, 2018 at 12:05
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    @D.Hutchinson It might be easier to go to the produce section of your nearest broccoli vendor and look to see if the broccoli there looks like the stuff in salad. but honestly, if broccoli is soft and crumbly it's either cooked (over cooked by many people's standards) or rotting!
    – Spagirl
    Feb 8, 2018 at 12:42
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    @Joe You peel broccoli?
    – Spagirl
    Feb 8, 2018 at 15:09

4 Answers 4


Raw broccoli is crunchy, and cooking softens it. Usually it's cooked until somewhat softer but still with a bit of crunchiness or at least firmness. Most likely the very soft broccoli you describe is just more cooked, probably overcooked by a lot of people's standards.

You can't easily tell that much about the quality of the broccoli at that point; the cooking is going to affect the texture and flavor a lot more than anything else. There's certainly nothing here that suggests anything specific about the broccoli (like GMO).

Also, while it's possible that the crunchy broccoli is actually undercooked, many people do like it relatively crunchy. Your soft "crumbly" broccoli sounds much worse to me, so even in terms of the end result, we can't really say anything about quality, just personal preferences.

I see that you've speculated that the soft, crumbly broccoli is raw. First off, it's extremely easy to tell: the color changes as it's cooked, becoming slightly translucent and shifting to a deeper green, probably slightly less blue and slightly more yellow. Raw broccoli should never be soft, and if it's actually soft and limp then it's very far from fresh. It's also only crumbly in the sense that the teeny darker bits on the top can crumble off. So given that you haven't said it's horrible, it seems more likely that it's (over)cooked and chilled, similar to how you might see chilled roasted peppers or cooked meat in a salad bar.


Like most vegetables, broccoli starts off very firm and crunchy and softens as you cook it. Boiling, stewing and steaming tend to decrease crunchiness linearly, and more direct heats like stir-frying tend to cook the outside more.

The only real thing we can suggest here is that these two places are cooking the broccoli in different ways or for different lengths of time.

It's no indication of ingredient quality. They're both almost certainly using the cheapest they can.

And organic broccoli is also crunch by default and able to be cooked down to a sponge. No indication of GMO.

eating at Chinese take-out restaurants to save money and still get a big portion of food

Dude... It might be cheaper than a pre-prepared salad bar. It might be cheaper than buying all the one-off ingredients (which make vastly more than one portion), but take-out is way more expensive than the ingredient cost.

If you really want to save money, learn to cook for yourself.

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    It's not the question, but yes, never seen a question here where I thought more that the OP should really consider spending some time in the kitchen. +1
    – Raditz_35
    Feb 8, 2018 at 12:11
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    ... there's kitchen drama between my roommates. Doing take-out is kind of a basic need for me, in order to avoid their mess ... until I find a better living situation ... Feb 9, 2018 at 4:25

For what you're describing, looks like to me that they apply thermal shock to keep the "Crunchiness". i've heard about it some time ago with other vegetables.

for what i've heard: they cook the vegetable on boiling water until it's 'aldente' (kinda still hard) and after 1-2 mins of cooking they dump'em in an ice cold bath.

Around here (brazil) they to this to some vegetables. Sounds like reasonable to me.


  • Classically, this is known as blanching, usually a process for mise en place to par-cook ingredients. This likely happens in a stir fry restaurant to lower the time required at the wok. It's also a fairly common process for adding green vegetables to salads. Both the restaurant and salad bar may be blanching the broccoli here (though it sounds like the salad bar are just boiling theirs for way too long).
    – Oli
    Feb 10, 2018 at 19:26

Take it from someone who is a lifetime user of salad bars and Asian takeout. Salad bars use fresh broccoli which has not been cooked. They tend to use the top florets more than the stems, as this is prettier and more appealing on the salad, and easier to chew than stems.

The stems at salad bars are very truncated, on purpose. They remove them. At Asian restaurants, they have little respect for the vegetable, and it is not natural in Chinese mainland. It is an American addition. They also use the stems. It saves money. I don't eat the stems, only the florets, so I don't usually get broccoli at Asian restaurants.

It is always hard crunchy, due to the stems, and I don't wish to take the time to cut off the florets, which are often chewy and cause me to think "Frozen!" But go to REAL Asian restaurants which don't depend on cheap buffet gargantuan supplies of lesser quality ingredients, and you will be amazed at the difference in quality. I eat broccoli at those Asian restaurants :-)

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