Also called Water Spinach, Kang Kong is an extremely popular and common vegetable in many parts of south-east Asia, grown as a vegetable for its tender shoots and younger leaves. Water spinach has a similar flavor and succulent texture to common spinach, with mild, sweet and nutty undertones. Kang kong has a mild flavour and can be used raw in salads as well as lightly cooked. The stem is the main attraction. The stalks are thick, hollow, crunchy things that are great at absorbing flavour. Water spinach is generally cooked a minimal time, just enough to wilt it. Like spinach, the leaves cook rather quickly and reduce a lot in volume so don't be afraid to grab a big bunch. When it’s done well, the vegetable will turn vibrantly green and attached with intense flavors from the aromatics it cooked with (its hollow stems may even absorb some of the sauce).
It can stir-fried, steamed, boiled or sauteed with a variety of sauces and served as a side dish. Can also be added to soups and even tempura battered and fried. The hollow stems can also be cooked on their own as a crunchy side dish. Seasonings for cooking this vegetable can be as simple as salt or soy sauce, but they often include a funky fermented paste of some sort, and a touch of sugar.
When preparing, it is best to strip the leaves from the stems and slice the stems diagonally. Add the stems first and stir fry for a minute or so before adding the leaves. Cook only until the leaves are just wilted.
A recipe that we often use is in a hot wok add some oil and 1 tbspn of minced garlic and I cut red chilly (or more) and 1 tspn grated ginger. When fragrant add the chopped kangkong stems and leaves. Add tbspn of any sauce like hoisin, barbecue or oyster sauce along with a little soy sauce. Garnish with red chilly slices and serve. In many parts of Asia it is eaten stir fried with chilli, garlic or a savoury paste.
Kangkong is also known as Morning Glory, Water Convolvulus, Water Spinach, River Spinach and Ipomoea aquatica.