Some know it as water spinach, others refer to it as Chinese spinach, while the Chinese call it ong choy – but it is most commonly known as kangkung, an extremely popular semi-aquatic vegetable in the South East Asia region. Kangkung is a species of morning glory and not actually related to spinach, even though the name would suggest otherwise.
Kangkung has a delightful crunchy texture when cooked, its mild flavour and nutty undertones makes it perfect for pairing with strong flavours like garlic, chilli paste or the iconic belacan (shrimp paste). Maintaining its vibrant green colouring through the cooking process, kangkung looks as good as it tastes. While most commonly stir-fried, you can also choose to boil or blanch kangkung if you want to serve it alongside noodles or soup.
When you shop for kangkung, look out for crisp dark green leaves with firm stalks, the more vibrant the colours the better. If the roots are still attached, make sure they’re not dry or brown as this ensures the stalks have been harvested recently. Other things to avoid include wilted leaves, brown patches and signs of disease. As an alternative to buying, you could grow your own! Kangkung is a hardy plant and can be grown in damp earth or floating on water. Perfect for your hydroponics garden. Kangkung is so easy to grow that it has been classed as an invasive weed in several US states.
To sum it all up, if you are looking for a vegetable that’s easy to work with, simple to care for, cheap, and versatile, then water spinach a.k.a. kangkung is definitely the veggie for you.
How to grow your own
You can start growing kangkung from seeds or cuttings.
Whether you are growing your kangkung in the ground on in a pot, pick a spot with strong sunlight and keep the soil consistently moist. However, if your garden is tight on soil space, you can grow kangkung shoots in a pot full of water. Keep the shoots in the water with steel mesh, ensuring the leaves are above the water. It’s a good idea to add some fish to the water to prevent mosquitoes breeding. Because there are no nutrients in tap water, you’ll want to fertilise the water regularly – just not too much to where you affect the fish.
In 4 to 6 weeks, the plant will be ready for harvesting. You can take the whole plant, just be sure to leave at least 3 cm of growth.
Wash your harvest and you are ready to start cooking!