Stir fried Ong Choy is one of my all-time favorite vegetables. It's also known as Water Spinach or Morning Glory and in Chinese, it's called Kong Xin Cai (空 心菜). It's recognizable by its long slender leaves and its hollow stems. Ong choy is super healthy, it has a natural sweetness to it with great texture. When cooked, the leaves become tender while the stems have a bit of a crunch. It's absolutely delicious!
What is Shacha Sauce?
This ong choy recipe is inspired by a dish we enjoyed many moons ago at Facing East Bellevue. The secret is a spoonful of Shacha Sauce and a pat of butter. If you're not familiar with shacha sauce (sometimes spelled sa cha sauce), it's a condiment made with a blend of fish, dried shrimp, aromatics, and chili powder. The flavor is difficult to describe because there's nothing like it. It's savory with a seafood undertone from the fish and dried shrimp. The consistency is a bit coarse with a sandy texture, which might explain the name shacha sauce (沙茶酱). In Chinese, it directly translates to "sand tea sauce." It can be described as bits of umami bombs swimming in mild chili oil. It packs so much flavor, one tablespoon is all that is needed in this recipe.
The brand I've used for as long as I can remember is Bullhead Brand Barbecue Sauce. It's a Taiwanese staple and this is THE brand, there is no replacement - none. It's either Bullhead Brand Shacha Sauce or nothing. Growing up, my family used it primarily in a dipping sauce for hotpot. As I reached my teenage years, I always added a bit to my instant noodles or stir fried noodles and even soup. I've come to learn the versatility of shacha sauce. Now I do all of the above as well as cook with it!
When you open up a container of shacha sauce, you'll notice a thick layer of oil floating on the top, while the heavier ingredients naturally settled to the bottom. Be sure to give it a good stir to incorporate the ingredients. This will need to be done every time you use the sauce.
How to Prepare Ong Choy
Ong Choy typically comes in a large bundle and is quite long, measuring 18-24 inches. Although the entire stem is edible, the thicker bottom portion can be a bit fibrous. Keep the bundle tied together and cut about 2-3 inches off the bottom. Discard the bottoms and continue cutting the rest of the bundle into 2-3 inch sections all the way up through the leaves. Wash the ong choy thoroughly as it can contain quite a bit of dirt. I like to soak ong choy after cutting to give the grit a chance to fall to the bottom then give it several rinses.
How to Stir Fry Morning Glory with Shacha Sauce
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Stir fry the garlic until it becomes aromatic but before it turns color. Next, add in shacha sauce and stir fry for a few seconds to bring out the flavor. Toss in the morning glory and soy sauce. Stir fry until the leaves are fully wilted. The stems should remain crunchy. Turn off the heat then add the butter. Give it a few final tosses to melt the butter and incorporate it into the ong choy. It's that easy!
- 1 lb ong choy
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tablespoon Bullhead Barbeque Sauce (Shacha Sauce)
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Start by preparing the ong choy. Trim the thicker stems off the bottom and discard. Cut the rest into 2"-3" sections. Wash thoroughly to remove grit.
- Heat a wok or skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of oil. Add garlic and stir fry until it becomes aromatic but before it turns color.
- Add the Bullhead Shacha Sauce and give it a quick stir fry to bring out some of the aromas.
- Add the ong choy and give it a few tosses then add soy sauce.
- Once the leaves are wilted, turn off the heat then add butter. Toss until the butter is melted and incorporated into the ong choy.