This is an updated (as of March 2019) version of an old recipe that called for simplicity and improvements.
There's a variation of this easy stir fry in just about every South East Asian country and this is my interpretation of the Thai iteration. Also, look how well used my wok is. I am protective of it like a mother is of her child and a person like me is of cats. It would probably be in my top seventy things I would take along in the stranded on a desert island scenario (which, by the way, WHY DO PEOPLE ASK THAT QUESTION).
Water spinach is a hollow stemmed versatile leafy green that grows in, you guessed it, water. The leafy tops are tender when cooked, while the stems maintain a crisp bite if prepared well. Well known and used throughout East Asia, it’s increasingly easy to find this vegetable in UK based Asian grocery shops as well. In London, you will find it just about anywhere in Chinatown (or, if you’re East, in one of the many Vietnamese supermarkets along Mare and Well Streets).
Sometimes shops label water spinach differently, so just in case you’re looking and can’t find it then here’s what it’s called in a million other languages. It tends to come in massive 500 gram bags, but pak boong cooks down to about 25% of its picked volume (so don't fret about purchasing what looks like such a large quantity).
English: water spinach, water morning glory, Chinese spinach, swamp cabbage, water convolvulus
Vietnamese: rau muống
Thai: pak boong
Cantonese: ong choy
Burmese: gazun ywet
Lao: phak bong
Thai Stir Fried Water Spinach
Pat Pak Boong – ผัดผักบุ้ง
The key to getting this recipe right is a combination of high heat and brief cooking time. Tao jeow, or fermented soybeans, are a must, but it's up to you whether to use the mashed paste or the preserved whole beans. If you aren't keen on spiciness, you can use de-seeded long red peppers, as pictured. Jasmine rice or steamed sticky rice are really all you need alongside this dish.
- Mix the fermented soybean sauce, soy sauce, and sugar together in a small bowl.
- Pop your wok onto the most powerful hob burner and fire it up to the highest heat. When the wok is hot, add the oil. It should begin to smoke immediately.
- Add the garlic and chilli for a few seconds until it begins to brown, followed almost immediately by the water spinach to the wok. Pour in the sauce and stir fry for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and dish up with some jasmine rice.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 1-2, with rice
- Cuisine: Thai