We love the semi aqautic vegetable rau muong, otherwise known as water spinach, morning glory, ong choy (Chinese), or kang kung/kong (Indonesian/Malasian). In some US states, this is considered a “noxious weed” –not so much that it’s toxic or noxious to eat, but it can grow rapidly without much care and can be deleterious to native plants. It actually has similar nutritional benefits of spinach. In Vietnam however, this is the staple vegetable for the poor and common folk and is used in a variety of ways–most commonly stir fried with garlic and eaten as a vegetable side or stems julienned and served with noodle soups.
While we love the classic Vietnamese stir fry with garlic, we can’t get enough of the Malaysian preparation called kangkung belacan which incorporates Malaysian style fermented shrimp paste belacan as the key ingredient. Rasa Malaysia has an excellent belacan yam leaves recipe which we adapted.
This is an extremely tasty dish but close all your bedroom doors, open all your windows, and turn the vent on high and don’t wear your favorite shirt as the smell is pungent!!
Kangkung Belacan (Rau muong Xao Mam Tom) adapted from Rasa Malaysia
- 1 lb rau muong washed, drained, and cut into 3-4 inch length
- 2 tbs minced garlic
- 1 tbs minced shallots
- 1/2 tbs dried belecan paste (see photo above)
- 2 red thai chili (thinly sliced)
- 1 tbs small dried shrimp (soak in warm water about 10 mins, drained–but save water)
- 3 tbs cooking oil
With mortar and pestle mix shrimp and dried belacan paste together, breaking up the soften shrimp but not totally obliterating it.
Heat a large wok or pan on high, add cooking oil and when oil is hot (smokes), add garlic, shallots, belacan paste mixture. Stir for a minute or so and you will really smell the belacan becoming more fragant–add the rau muong and quickly stir fry until just wilted. Toss in the chili and add a tbs or two of the shrimp water if desired for a bit of moisture to the sauce. Do not over cook and immediately take of heat and transfer to serving platter.
Serve with jasmine rice and share with your neighbors the wondeful aroma of belacan!