The sumptuous XO sauce is a great complement to the popular Chinese leafy green vegetable Ong Choy. In addition to being one of our go-to vegetables, Chinese water spinach, or Ong Choy as it is known in the Cantonese dialect, is now considered a “standard” dish in many traditional Chinese eateries.
Cultivated Chinese Leafy Greens
Whenever we visit a Chinese restaurant, one of the first things we inquire about is the selection of fresh veggies. The usual suggestions are bok choy, spinach, Chinese broccoli, and choy sum (also known as yu choy).
However, ong choy, also known as “kng xn cài” in Mandarin, appears to have joined the ranks of the “basics” in recent times. Kong xin cai, commonly known as kang kung in Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia, literally translates to “hollow heart vegetable.” Malaysian eateries always get the “kang kung belacan” (water spinach with shrimp paste).
Stir-fried pea leaves, also known as stir-fried pea tips, are another trendy vegetable that may have already “arrived.” Pea leaves are a common accompaniment to traditional Chinese fare at many restaurants nowadays.
The waitress will ask if you want your vegetables to be stir-fried, with garlic paste, with fu yu (bean cheese or fermented bean curd), or with fish sauce after you have inquired about the availability of specific fresh vegetables in the kitchen.
We’ve tried cooking water spinach every which way, including with fermented tofu, and our preference varies with the day, but is usually chosen, as with many decisions in our family of four, by whichever is the loudest.
Extra Reasonable Prepare
XO sauce is not one of the go-to choices for cooking since A) it’s too pricey and B) it’s too pricey to waste. Once you’ve mastered making your own XO sauce at home, this vegetable dish will become a true culinary delight.
If you’re hungry, you should try this dish.
- 1 pound fresh Ong Choy or water spinach
- 3-6 thin slices of ginger
- 5 cloves sliced garlic
- 3 tablespoons of XO sauce
- 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ⅛ teaspoon of sugar
- When preparing Ong Choy, start by removing the thicker portions of the stems. To get the full water spinach experience, leave the hollow stems that provide a wonderful crunch to the sensitive leaves.
- After rinsing our vegetables three times, we prefer to give them a good shake in a large colander to remove excess water. For a detailed description of and advice on how to wash Chinese leafy greens, check out our dedicated website!
- Over high heat, add the oil and ginger to the wok. After about 10 seconds of stirring, add the garlic and XO sauce to the oil and allow the ginger to permeate it.
- As soon as you add the Ong Choy, give the mixture a rapid toss with your spatula because the wok should be almost burning at this point. The veggies will help chill the wok, but you still need to stir them straight quickly so that the oil and sauce are uniformly distributed throughout the vegetables.
- If the vegetables clump together, use a wok spatula to separate them into individual pieces so they may absorb an equal amount of oil and sauce during cooking. Add sugar and salt, then taste for seasoning.
- After a minute of stir-frying, the vegetables should be well covered with the oil and sauce. The next step is to mound the vegetables in the center of the wok while maintaining the heat high. This is how you acquire that inimitable “wok hay” flavor you crave from your favorite Chinese eateries, by allowing the sides of the wok to superheat.
- Some liquid should have accumulated at the bottom of the wok after about 30 seconds of high heat; this prevents the vegetables from scorching and generates steam, which aids cooking.
- Then, for another 15-30 seconds, use your wok spatula to distribute the vegetable mound in a circular motion around the wok, creating that scorching “wok hay” effect. For that perfect sear, spreading the water spinach around the side of the pan is a must.
- Serve immediately on plates. If you’re in the giving mood, drizzle some more XO sauce.