Kangkung, water spinach or Ipomoea aquatica if you prefer – is an aquatic vegetable abundant in Southeast Asia. I’d heard about it long before I tasted it. The journey to my table was even longer.
The wonders of kangkung were uttered to me by a Malaysian woman I met about 5 years ago. “Please”, she entreated me “if you come and visit us in the country again bring us some kangkung.”
I had no idea what this king kong thing was. An Asian vegetable, triangular shaped leaves, high in iron. Schlepping around the Vic market I searched in vain for this vegetable, being sent here, there and everywhere by various stallholders but never ending up finding it in time for my last visit to see her.
Bali, of course, changed all that. Kangkung Pelecing is a staple on the island. We had it as our dose of daily greens on many occasions but the best of all was the large bowl assembled at our cooking class at Casa Luna
I had every good intention of making it when I got home.
It’s only taken 6 months!
When I saw the glistening, fresh bunches at Vic market this week, I knew I had to buy some. I couldn’t remember what else was in the sambal but I reckoned I could wing it with what we had at home.
Necessity is the mother of invention. I had the Kangkung and dammit I was going to cook at least something vaguely resembling kangkung pelecing.
This is my version, interrupted halfway through preparation by a unexpected visitor, undeterred by an oil splatter on my naked arm (ouch!) or dirtying my brand new top (I really must get an apron) – I took the easy path by using a food processor and cooking the kangkug in the sambal. No shallots, candlenuts or kecap manis and fewer chillies than I would have liked – just as well because you aren’t allowed to reproduce the Casa Luna recipes!Kangkung Pelecing (Water spinach in tomato sambal)
2 bunches of kangkung, well rinsed - stems roughly chopped
2-3 lime leaves
2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 large spring onion, sliced on the diagonal (optional)Tomato sambal
2 large red chillies (more if you have them)
1 medium red onion (shallots would be better)
3 cloves of garlic
a small handful of nuts (almonds worked fine, though Id intended to use cashews)
a tsp or 2 of palm sugar
sea salt, to taste
1 tsp shrimp paste
Prepare the shrimp paste in the usual way. I wrap it in a double layer of al foil and dry roast in a hot fry pan for a few minutes.
Throw all the sambal ingredients in a food processor and blitz it. How easy is that?
Heat a wok and add the oil. Fry the sambal for about 5 minutes until it is reduced by nearly half. Traditionally you would have steamed the vegetables then mixed the sambal through it by hand but I noticed on the bottom of the recipe that throwing the kangkung in raw and cooking it in the sauce is was an acceptable variation to the method. With the wok still bubbling add the kangkung stalks and cook in the sambal for a few minutes. Add the lime leaves and spring onions then lastly the kangkung leaves. Give it a good mix through and take off the heat.
This is a fragrant and incredibly tasty vegetable side dish to an Asian meal. It also makes an easy lunch with rice on a hot day. Tofu could be added for it to become a stand-alone dish.
Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted this month by Claudia from Fool for Food
: Did I articulate just how yummy the sambal is?! Don't be put off if you can't find this exotic vegetable, English spinach is an obvious substitute but be adventurous and try mixing the sambal through your favourite steamed greens.
I've now made three variations on this dish. Remember to keep in mind (on palate?) the salt/sugar balance. Like so many culinary beauties it is another case of 'just a bit more' of the things that are not so healthy for us. In this case it's the coconut oil that makes it lush, along with the palm sugar and salt. It is easiest to boil the kangkung for about 3 minutes. The latest version was to cook the sambal in the oil for 7-10 minutes then throw in the boiled vegetable with some diced tofu. Along with some steamed rice the combo is tasty and satisfying.
Labels: Asian food, dairy-free, gluten-free, kangkung, photos, sambal, vegan, vegetarian, weekend herb blogging