Explore authentic Vietnamese family cuisine in Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Vietnamese Recipes from the Heart by Pauline Nguyen, with recipes by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen, including Steamed Cockles or Periwinkles (Oc Luoc); Bitter Melon Stuffed with Pork and Black Fungus (Canh Hu Qua); and Wok-tossed Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd Sauce (Rau Muong Xao Chao).
Serves 4 as part of a shared feast
Luke Nguyen: Water spinach (ong choy) grows abundantly on the banks of ponds and streams throughout South-East Asia and it is a much-loved vegetable in the Nguyen household. It is the main leafy green in my diet and is a great source of iron. Other sauces matched for water spinach are steak sauce, spicy satay sauce, tamarind and plum sauce, or simply wok-tossed with fresh garlic. A good trick when preparing it, is to tear the water spinach instead of using a knife—parts of the stems that are too tough to tear will be too tough to eat, so discard.
Pour the oil into a wok over high heat, then add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until the garlic starts to color. Add the water spinach and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, work the spinach around in the wok until it starts to wilt. Add the bean curd, sugar, and salt, and continue to stir-fry the spinach for 3 to 5 minutes, until all of the flavors have combined and the spinach has wilted. Turn out onto a plate and garnish with sesame seeds.
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