Water morning glory or water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) is the ideal green for adding some exoticism to your vegetable repertoire. Don’t let its status on the USDA’s Most Wanted list as a “noxious weed” put you off. That label merely highlights the threat it presents to local flora in some of the hotter southern states.
For the chef, however, this leafy green and its crunchy stalk offer real value in terms of diversity at a knockdown price. This would explain its appearance in many different guises in the cuisine of Southeast Asia, where the plant flourishes.
The Vietnamese like to flash fry it with garlic, adding dried shallots when plating up for extra sweetness and crunch. Like regular spinach, the leaves will quickly wilt down but the stalks should retain some bite. For a different flavor, some Vietnamese like to add fermented bean curd (tofu), but this flavor can be too much for some palates.
The Thai take on this vegetable is to cook as above and then douse the finished dish in oyster sauce. The difference is a piquant tang that adds extra nuance to the dish.
As with many leaf vegetables, be aware that a large bunch of water morning glory will soon wilt down to a smaller portion. Unlike traditional spinach, however, the leaves don’t retain water, and so you won’t need to spend time squeezing out the cooking juices once it’s done.
So why not head down to your local Chinese market and grab large bundles of this cheap and versatile veg, and add a touch of glory to your side dishes.
Photo courtesy of www.indrani.net