Chinese cauliflower (you ji cai hua有机菜花) is our go-to variety for stir-frying, boiling in hot pot, or baking. Read more below to find out more about this delicacy.
What is Chinese cauliflower?
Chinese cauliflower (you ji cai hua有机菜花) is a hybrid between cauliflower and broccoli. It is said that the Japanese seed company Tokita created this hybrid which they call Fioretto (which means little flower in Italian). Although, there are many variations and many in the Chinese markets do not resemble the fioretto variety created by Tokita.
Chinese cauliflower / fioretto goes by different names depending on where it's sold or marketed. In Chinese markets it's sold as Chinese cauliflower to differentiate it from the mainstream cauliflower sold in the U.S., which is also sold in Chinese markets.
People in southern China generally refer to regular cauliflower as hua cai (花菜flower vegetable) and Chinese cauliflower as “you ji hua cai” (有机花菜). In northern China regular cauliflower is called cai hua (菜花 vegetable flower) and Chinese cauliflower is called “you ji cai hua” (有机菜花).
Regular cauliflower is also referred to as jin hua ( 紧花 tight flower) and Chinese cauliflower as san hua (散花 loose flower) – referring to the differences in the florets.
Chinese cauliflower has greenish, long stems and yellowish, open loosely packed florets. Some varieties look like a cross between cauliflower and broccolini. While the color of the stems is usually green, they can vary from white to yellowish-green.
If you search the internet, you’ll find various pictures of Chinese cauliflower / fioretto that look very different from each other. This is because there are multiple varieties and likely there are many hybrid varieties that are not documented well. Some varieties are fioretto 60, fioretto 70, and fioretto 85. The numbers refer roughly to the number of days to maturity.
Apparently, there is an entirely different variety called Caulilini that looks very similar. The Tokita seed company also has a variety called Romanetto.
When we refer to Chinese cauliflower, we are referring to any of the varieties with long stems, more loosely packed “heads”, a slightly sweet nutty flavor, and a crisp texture after cooking.
Chinese cauliflower is slightly nutty and a little sweeter than regular cauliflower. The entire stem can be eaten, and it remains pleasantly crisp when cooked.
Other names for Chinese cauliflower
Fioretto (means little flower in Italian), Biancoli, Sweet Sprouting Cauliflower, Karifurore, Stick Cauliflower, and Baby Cauliflower.
Difference between Chinese and mainstream cauliflower
Chinese cauliflower has more yellowish, open, and loosely packed florets, while mainstream cauliflower has a white head made up of tightly packed florets. Chinese cauliflower has greenish, long, and slender stems, while mainstream cauliflower has short, thick, white stems.
It has a delicate sweet and nutty flavor, whereas mainstream cauliflower is slightly more bitter and less sweet.
We use Chinese cauliflower anytime we are cooking a cauliflower dish. Try it with our Chinese cauliflower and Douchi (fermented black soybeans) recipe, or boil them in Sichuan hot pot. We also season them with our mala spice mix and bake them in the oven. Sometimes we finish them off with a spoonful of homemade chili oil!
Where to buy
You can find Chinese cauliflower at most Asian markets. In Japanese and Korean markets it may go by different names, but you will be able to spot it by looking for the variety with long green stems and yellowish loose florets. We've also seen precut packages marketed as baby cauliflower at Trader Joe's.