Why do Chinese restaurants usually not cut up Kai-Lan?
99% of the time when I order kai-lan/Chinese broccoli, it comes uncut, which makes it a test of skill when eating with chopsticks
Recently I was out with a business colleague and we got a side dish of it, and it was both delicious and cut into chopstick-friendly sizes.
Is there a deeper reason why often it is not cut up?
Mostly for looks and presentation. Also the restaurant wants to show that you are getting the beautiful inner stems which is the prize part and not just lots of leaves and broken parts.
Good question and one possible good answer already.
I do notice that the better Cantonese restaurants that serve gai lan, if they cut diagonally a little bit from the bottom so the base looks like a spear, it makes for a better chewing experience. I do this at home as well. Smaller piece cuts are easier to eat, and this applies to all sorts of Chinese veg for the most part. Most Cantonese restaurants otherwise don't cut them up, whether the veg is part of a noodle soup or just plain stir fry.
i just pick up the stalk end with my chop sticks, put it between my lips then do a lip-incisor shuffle to pull it as much as i want then bite down and let the rest drop into my rice bowl/plate. i use the chop sticks to steady the protruding part and prevent it from making a mess.
It depends on how it was cooked. If it was stir-fried, it will always be cut up in order to facilitate the cooking. If it was steamed or boiled, it will usually be served whole. An alternative approach would be to cut it but still present it as they were whole.