Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry | 腐乳蒜茸炒通菜

I’ve got a good news to share….

That my Honey Crusted Ribs and Oven Baked Fries with Fennel Aioli has won the Sweet to Savory recipe contest!

I’d like to thank all the readers who supported me and voted for my dish! I feel so fortunate to have you on my back and I know I couldn’t have done it without your help!

Speaking of being fortunate, I had a so much fun cooking and eating an abundant amount of Water Spinach this past summer – thanks to my friend Steven H. who was kept busy harvesting these lovely greens throughout the summers from his back yard garden!

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

To the uninitiated, water spinach is one of the most popular leafy vegetables grown and consumed in East and Southeast Asia. It has very little flavor other than a hint of sweetness and a mild nutty undertone. Depending on the regions, water spinach is known as Chinese spinach, river spinach, water morning glory, water convolvulus, swamp cabbage, and many more but you get the idea.  In the US, it’s mainly found in Chinese supermarkets or your Chinese neighbor’s back yard :)

In Chinese cuisine, water spinach is known as Kong Xin Cai (空心菜) in Mandarin and is prepared in countless ways with many regional flavors. The fact that water spinach g

rows very well in Sichuan province, my hometown, makes me appreciate this particular vegetables at very young age. It’s one of the first vegetables I learned to prepare and I can never get tired of eating.

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

In Cantonese, water spinach is called as Tung Choy or Ong Choy (通菜). The Cantonese style calls for an unique ingredient called fermented tofu (腐乳) – a type of preserved tofu used in Chinese cooking. Think it as Chinese cheese. Instead of making cheese using fermented milk we use fermented soy milk. The fermented tofu is salty and pungent but it adds a rich and savory flavor to the vegetable which cannot be described by words. That’s why I would rather like to share this recipe with you!

As you might have noticed with many Chinese stir-fried vegetable dishes, the key elements are not the condiments but the stir-fry skills. A well executed water spinach should have that crunchy texture and a perfect green color. On the other hand if your dish comes out saggy or watery, congratulations you’ve just failed making your water spinach.

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Here are some TIPS to avoid a badly executed water spinach stir-fry:

1) Unless you own a professional Chinese stove (30k BTU +) or  you cook over camp fire, I suggest you briefly blanch the vegetables to remove some of the water

2) Use the maximum amount of heat when stir-frying. Do not cook for more than 4 minutes to avoid over cooking

3) Add the salt to taste at very end. The fermented tofu might be saltier than you might think

Now, ff you know this water spinach or have a favorite water spinach recipe please don’t hesitate to share with me in the comments area below :)

Step by Step Illustration:

Use a knife or your fingers to remove the tough part of the stems towards the bottom of the stalk. Split the stem into multiple pieces.

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Rinse a few times and drain the water

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Combine the fermented tofu with the brine. Mash the fermented tofu until it forms a paste

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Slice the garlic and chili

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Add 1 tsp oil and 1 tbsp salt in a large amount of boiling water. Blanche the water spinach until it begins to wilt, about 30 seconds . Drain the water in a colander

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Add 2 tbsp oil in a hot wok. Sautee the garlic until translucent in medium heat

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Add the fermented tofu paste and the blanched water spinach. Stir fry the spinach over high heat for 2 minutes. Turn the water spinach frequently to sure the fermented tofu paste is well incorporated. Mix in the sugar and salt to taste. Remove from heat immediately to avoid overcooking.

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Plate and service it hot!

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Serving Size: 2 Servings

Enjoy this Classic Cantonese Water Spinach Stir-fry? The step-by-step picture illustration is available on www.yireservation.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb water spinach
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1 fresh chili or dried chili
  • 2 cube fermented tofu
  • 1 tbsp fermented tofu brine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste, about 1 tsp

Instructions

  1. Use a knife or your fingers to remove the tough part of the stems towards the bottom of the stalk. Split the stem into multiple pieces.
  2. Rinse a few times and drain the water
  3. Combine the fermented tofu with the brine. Mash the fermented tofu until it forms a paste
  4. Slice the garlic and chili
  5. Add 1 tsp oil and 1 tbsp salt in a large amount of boiling water. Blanche the water spinach until it begins to wilt, about 30 seconds . Drain the water in a colander
  6. Add 2 tbsp oil in a hot wok. Saute the garlic until translucent in medium heat
  7. Add the fermented tofu paste and the blanched water spinach. Stir fry the spinach over high heat for 2 minutes. Turn the water spinach frequently to sure the fermented tofu paste is well incorporated. Mix in the sugar and salt to taste. Remove from heat immediately to avoid overcooking. Plate and service it hot
http://yireservation.com/recipes/cantonese-style-water-spinach-stir-fry/

Cantonese Style Water Spinach Stir-fry

46 comments

  1. Hi, what brand of fermented tofu do you recommend? A picture would be awesome.. I’m not quite sure what to look for at the store. Thank you!

    • Hi Tina, thanks for checking out my recipe. I unfortunately don’t have a jar of fermented tofu with me but I’ll snap a pic next time I go shopping. You want to make sure you use a lighter color ones because the really dark ones have very different flavors.

  2. Trying to sub to blog. Such a newb.

  3. Forgot to check box

  4. Think brocolinni would be great this way… Mmm thank you for this post, I love fermented dofu…

  5. Hey there,
    This sounds amazing and we’re about to get peak local greens at our farmers marekts here in NYC. Thanks for posting!
    JeremyEG
    HomeCookLocavore.com

  6. Hi Yi,

    I just made this dish for tomorrow’s dinner and I was very tempted to eat it all right then and there. It was soo good! I kept “tasting” it but it was my excuse to eat a little bit more without feeling guilty 😉

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my two cents with you. I don’t blanch the “on choy”. Instead, once the stems and leaves look softened, I covered it with a lid and let it soften this way. Two to four minutes should do the trick but the time depends on the amount of On Choy you have. Also, instead of using the chiles, have you tried cooking it with the fermented tofu in chiles sauce? My mom taught me this way and I think the spiciness is just fine for me. Guess I can try your method to vary my cooking technique as I can never get tired of this dish. This is my all time favorite Chinese vegetable dish, besides the “Dai Dow Maio” or the “Sweet Pea dish”.

    Thanks Yi! Keep posting awesome dishes!

    • Hi Carol, thanks for sharing your method! When I feel lazy I also just cook the vegetable without blanching it. It gets a bit watery sometimes but it still tastes super delicious!! Good call on sweet pea shots! It’s one of my favorites too! Thanks for visiting my blog!!

  7. We had stir-fried water spinach in Guangzhou at the White Swan Hotel and my family loved it. The one we had was not spicy nor did it include tofu. It was very slightly sweet and had lots of garlic. Really good!!! Sometimes we ate 2 entire orders of it.
    Where did your friend get the seeds to grow this? I’d like to put it in my garden this summer. We do not have access to good Chinese veggies here, I live in Traverse City, MI. Thanks!

    • Hello Linnea, glad to hear that you enjoy the water spinach. My friend bought the seeds from a local Chinese grocery store. Your best bet is to check at large Chinese grocery stores in MI. I hope this helps. Thanks for visiting my blog!

    • You can grow onchoy easily,

      At the beggining of the season, buy onchoy, and cut the thick bottom part of the stem off, so about 6″ from the bottom should be good. Then soak them in a cup of water, and it will grow roots.

      Then poke a hole in the ground and stick it in there and then water them until they grow and then you eat them 😀

      • When is the growing season for onchoy? And should this be planted in full sun? Thanks.

        • Hi Dolly, i have not grown my own onchoy yet but my friends normally plant the seeds in the spring. If you were to grow it using the stem i’d say start in late spring early summer. This vegetable grows well under heat so definitely in full sun. Hope this answers your questions.

  8. I love this veggie! I always wondered what it was called.. thanks :)

  9. This is one of my all time favorite veggie dish! Even my kids love it too…I’m so happy about that cos I can make it often. :) Yours look perfect and got me craving for some now.

  10. It looks very nice.From my childhood my mom used to make water spinach fry mixed with boiled chick peas.Water Spinach health benefits were awesome with Vitamin-A,C

    • Hi Vira, thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing the information on water spinach. I didn’t know that water spinach had so much more to offer! Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Chinese Pumpkin Cake | 南瓜餅 | Yi Reservation

  12. When i was a child, my mom would make ong choy with mostly leaves, because the stems were too thick for me to chew. :) now i can eat a whole bunch alone! She used to make it with garlic and fish sauce only. I will try your recipe with the chiles. Sounds delicious!

    • hello Angela, thanks for stopping by. I used to not like the stem part when I was little but later on I learned how to appreciate the whole vegetable. Please let me know how you like it if you get to try this recipe.

  13. I looooooove this dish. I didn’t even know the name, and all I need to tell my husband is “that vegetable with hole in stem”. 😀 Thank you so much for this recipe. It’s time to make it at home!

  14. I can never resist Asian greens. The variety is just amazing. The blanching tip is genius, too.

  15. Your water spinach stir-fry looks perfect! We order it all the time at restaurants and my mom occasionally makes it at home. It’s one of our favorites. You are so lucky to have had such a great supply from your friend’s garden. And great tips!

  16. Congratulations! This recipe looks so inspiring and delicious, I think I’ll finally buy the water spinach that I see here regularly and never dare buying. I’m not sure if I can find here fermented tofu, but if I do, I’ll definitely try it too. It sounds very intriguing (and I like tofu a lot!).

    • Hi Sissi, thanks for stopping by. If you can’t find fermented tofu, you can just fry it with sliced garlic. The water spinach will taste good that way.

  17. Water spinach, I have not had this green for a while…I never had it with the fermented tofu…I must try your recipe next time when cooking this veggie.
    Yi, thank you so much for the kindhearted words, I really appreciate.
    Hope you are having a great week 😀

  18. I’m so happy you won. That was a great recipe. Now I know what water spinach is. have seen this at Asian groceries but never knew!

  19. Now this looks fantastic! Yummy and simple recipe and tempting pictures, Yi!

  20. Hello Yi, Great directions for making this lovely dish and thanks for adding both the pin yin and characters for this lovely vegetable so that I can request it in the wet markets. Have a super day! BAM

  21. Congrats on the win! That’s super. Great recipe too – looks so flavorful. I’ve actually thought about using a wok on a fire outdoors, since my stove doesn’t put out near enough BTUs to effectively use a wok. Maybe someday I will – sounds like a lot of fun. Good stuff – thanks.

  22. What a harvest of water spinach in your neighbor’s backyard! In Southeast Asia like Malaysia or Singapore, water spinach is usually wok-fried with sambal belacan.

    Congrats on winning the contest!

    • Thank you tigerfish! Thanks for mentioning the sambal belacan. It’s one of the dishes I like a lot when I go to a Malaysian restaurant!

  23. This is one of my favourite summer veggies! I wish I could get some water spinach at reasonable price here.

    Congratulations on winning the contest!

    • Thanks Angie. Yes the water spinach gets expensive during winter time here but I am still glad that it’s available year around in the States.

  24. Thanks for posting. We’ve had a bounty of ong choy this season. The stuff literally won’t stop growing. In fact, I’ve grown tired of it. I’ve been using garlic and fermented tofu, but didn’t know about blanching first. Will try that next time. Can you recommend any other methods for preparing? Thanks.

    • Hello Darla, I am so jealous of you for the unlimited supply you had over the summer. As someone mentioned in the comment earlier, stir-fry with sambal belacan is an extremely popular way to cook in South Asia. Give it a shot if you have not tried it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *