No, it isn't the big monkey's cousin from Kansas. What's known as water spinach, swamp cabbage and ong choy is a member of the sweet potato family. But think of it as Asian spinach. Traditionally grown in paddies, its arrow-shaped leaves have a neutral taste much like Popeye's favourite nosh. Though high in fibre, its long, hollow, reed-like stems are usually removed before cooking. Kangkong (the name given by Dutch colonials to this succulent green) figures in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaya and India and, like spinach, has a short shelf life. Keep it refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to four days.
This quick Southeast Asian recipe for Kangkong Stir-Fry works just as well with kale or spinach. To get the full Indonesian effect, add a 1/4 teaspoon of blachan shrimp paste as the garlic, ginger and onion cook. Warning: a little goes a long way!
Wash, trim and dry 1 pound kangkong. In a wok or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add half a chopped onion, 4 chopped garlic cloves and a 1-inch piece of peeled and minced ginger. Stir-fry for a minute or so until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the kangkong, 1 finely chopped bird chili pepper, 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon thick tamari soy sauce. Continue to stir-fry just until the kangkong wilts, about another minute. Plate with a garnish of toasted sesame seeds or ripped Thai basil leaves.