Stirfried Water Spinach Leaves

Chinese water spinach (I never knew the English word until I found it in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook) is called “hollow-heart vegetable,” kongxin cai, in Mandarin and ong choi in Cantonese. It’s another one of those fantastic vegetables available in Asian markets and from some farmers’ markets that are lucky enough to boast a vendor of Asian produce. Its leave are long and pointed, and its stems are hollow tubes – we usually get two dishes from one purchase, as stems and leaves are best cooked separately. This is another vegetable that our children love – again, it tastes like a version of spinach, but without the “sweaters on your teeth!” If you can’t find this vegetable, you can substitute regular fresh spinach for this preparation.

For more information, click the picture.


  • 1 lb water spinach
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt


  1. Cut off the large hollow stems on the bunch of water spinach right up to where the main mass of leaves begins. Reserve the stems for another dish.
  2. Soak the leaves 5 m in cool water, rinsing and repeating until no grit sinks to the bottom of the sink. Shake off most of the water, allowing a few drops to remain.
  3. Separate any leaves still attached by stems and reserve the larger stems with the first batch you set aside.
  4. Heat the wok on high, then add the oil and heat until it shimmers.
  5. Add the garlic and “explode until fragrant.”
  6. Add the spinach leaves in handfuls, adding each handful as the previous one shrinks to manageable size.
  7. Stirfry gently over medium-high heat until the leaves are slightly wilted – they will shrink amazingly in volume.
  8. Add 1/4 tsp of salt, stir to combine thoroughly – just as the vegetable begins to release its juice, it’s done.
  9. Turn off the heat, adjust the seasoning and serve.


At the time you add the salt you can add 1 cube of fermented beancurd, mashed with a fork and mixed with a splash of water and a pinch of sugar. You will need to use less salt.

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