Chinese 'ong choy', aka water spinach or kangkung (what it's called in Malaysia where it grows rampantly) is a delicious and mild leafy green, which you will likely NOT find easily since...it is illegal to sell in stores! This is because while tasty, it is classified as invasive in the United States. We were lucky enough to have it at one of our favorite restaurants only because the chef grows it in his own garden. Since it's an aggressive spreader, growing it yourself means you'll have to be very careful to keep it under control.
These greens are so good steamed, boiled or sauteed. The leafy tops cook to a perfect texture that's neither too soft nor tough at all, and the stems have a bit of a crisp crunch. Notice the characteristic hollow stems. Water spinach is almost always cooked with shrimp paste. This I can't understand because I find it to be a mild and versatile vegetable that would go with anything.
Me: Why is it always cooked with shrimp paste?
My mom: It's ALWAYS cooked with shrimp paste.
Me: But why? There must be some reason.
My mom: It just is!
Me: But WHY?!!
My mom: NO WHY!
So that's all I got from my mom. If anyone can shed some light on why this is such a traditional taste, please share!
I'm Wendy Kiang-Spray, gardener, home cook, and author of The Chinese Kitchen Garden. Learn more about the book here. Enjoy the blog and be sure to like The Chinese Kitchen Garden Facebook page for notifications when there are new posts.