Thursday, September 20, 2012

Water spinach / Ong-choi 蕹菜 + recipe

Water spinach, ong-choi 蕹菜 or tûng-choi (通菜lit. hollow-vegetable) in Cantonese, is plentiful these days at wet markets. With its long, slender, hollow stems and arrowhead-shaped leaves you cannot miss it Water spinach is different than Chinese spinach (amaranth) or yihn-choi 莧菜.

Bunches of water spinach

Although water spinach has the character choi in Cantonese it does not belong to the choi family.  Water spinach is a leaf vegetable from the Convolvulaceae (or morning glory) family.  Not many edible plants belong to this family and as strange as it may sounds the sweet potato (番薯 - fâan-syùh) does. Most of the other members are herbs and weeds.

The most popular way of cooking tûng-choi is to stir-fry it with fermented bean curd. It is delicious! If you have not yet tasted this dish give it a try. If you like the fermented tofu’s cheesy flavour you will love it.

Here is the recipe of this Cantonese dish that is well-known among all families.
(Adapted from “Cook Like a Master Chef – Tips for Kitchen Novice” by Alvin Liu & Eric Lai)

Stir-fried water spinach with fermented bean curd


Ingredients: (small dish)
  • ½ catty (~300g) water spinach
  • 2 cubes fermented bean curd (add more, if you like!)
  • 1 slices of ginger, thinly shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 red chilli, thinly chopped
  • ½ Tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar 
  1. Wash the water spinach several times and soak it in water. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in wok and stir-fry ginger, garlic, red chili and fermented bean curd for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the water spinach in and continue stirring.
  4. Pour Shaoxing wine in, and add salt and sugar.
  5. Continue stirring until the water spinach wilts but stay bright.   
“Sugar is said to make the stir fry vegetables greener in colour and sweeter in taste.” (Cook Like a Master Chef – Tips for Kitchen Novice – by Alvin Liu & Eric Lai).

Fermented bean curd 腐乳 fuh-yúh

Note: you can view most of the vegetables found at Hong Kong wet markets on my Local Vegetables Page.

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