My husband and I LOOOOVE rau muong (water spinach). Water spinach is also known as “swamp cabbage” because it grows in ponds or damp ground in tropical climates. Water spinach is packed full of nutrients; it’s high in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Water spinach actually has double the calcium found in regular spinach! And, as icing on the cake, water spinach happens to taste really good, too! We typically saute our rau muong, but my mother-in-law also likes to spiralize it and add it to soups, specifically bun rieu (her version is far from vegetarian!!), which is a tomato based soup with rice noodles, tofu, pork, and crab. (I’m hoping to try out a vegetarian version of this soup in the near future.)
Anyway, when I was on Pham Fatale’s website for her bi chay recipe I recently made, I found a recipe she posted for rau muong. She uses ginger in her rau muong (water spinach), probably to make it Buddhist friendly since Vietnamese Buddhists who follow a strict vegetarian diet do not eat garlic, shallots, etc. I have never used ginger with my rau muong before, so I gave her recipe a try and we loved it! I’ll definitely be making it this way again. If you like spicy food, be sure to make the Nuoc Mam Gung recipe at the end of this post to dip your water spinach in. This sauce is amazing!
1 lb rau muong (water spinach)
1 (2 inch chunk) ginger
1 (1 inch chunk) ginger
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, peel the chunks of ginger, grate the 2 inch chunk, and then mince the 1 inch chunk (keep them separate). Then, wash the water spinach thoroughly and drain as much water as possible (either use a salad spinner or gently squeeze out the water and pat dry with paper towels). Cut water spinach into 5 inch segments (you’ll eat both the leaves and the stems, so no need to do anything before cutting it other than wash). Blanch the water spinach in the boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and immediately place in a cold water bath.
So as not to dirty too many dishes, I heated the same pot I used to blanch the water spinach over medium high heat to saute the greens. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan, and then add the minced ginger. Stir it around for a minute or two, then add the water spinach plus 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger. Toss it around in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, salt, and black pepper and saute another minute to make sure all the flavors mix well. Transfer to a platter, and if you like spicy foods, make the sauce to serve with your sauteed rau muong.
Tip: If your local grocery store does not sell water spinach, you can almost always find it at an Asian market this time of year. If you are in a Vietnamese market, it will say Rau Muong on the bag; if you are in a Thai market, it will say Phak Bung; if you are in a Filipino market, it will say Kangkong. Some markets have English printed on their produce as well, in which case it may say Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach, or River Spinach.
Nuoc Mam Gung
In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp of sugar in 1 Tbsp of hot water. Squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl along with 2 Tbsp of nuoc mam chay (vegetarian fish sauce) or soy sauce if you don’t have nuoc mam chay. Finely mince 1 Thai chili pepper and add to the bowl. Add in 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger you have leftover from the rau muong and stir the mixture together. This sauce is very spicy and full of flavor. Dip your rau muong in it, or drizzle a little bit of the sauce over your rau muong.