Sauteed Spinach

Chao Bocai

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Dinner: Menu

    Mrs. Chiang’s mother knew that spinach was nutritious, but she didn’t have to force her children to eat it. She cooked it so well that it was one of the family’s favorite foods. It’s one of ours as well. In an elaborate multi-course meal, its simplicity, delicate flavor, and color provide a refreshing contrast to heavier, more complicated dishes. It takes about 5 minutes to cook and requires only some shreds of ginger and a few dried red peppers to brighten the final taste.



    1 package (10 ounces) fresh spinach Wash the spinach and drain it thoroughly, but don’t worry if a few drops of water are still clinging to the leaves.
    4 dry red peppers Cut the dried red peppers crosswise into thirds. If you want the dish to be somewhat milder, remove the seeds from the inside of the peppers, as they are the hottest part.
    2-inch piece fresh ginger Peel the ginger and slice it into small slivers about ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick.

    1-½ teaspoons cornstarch

    1 tablespoon water

    Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.


    3 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a fairly high flame for about 15 seconds, then pour in the oil. It will be hot enough to cook with when the first tiny bubbles form and a few small wisps of smoke appear.




    When the oil is ready, add the spinach, peppers, and ginger and stir-fry them for about 2 minutes, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the ingredients off the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle, so that they are all exposed to the hot oil.
    ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste After about 2 minutes the spinach will have turned dark green and become limp. Add the salt, then taste the spinach and, if the flavor is not fresh and bright, add some more salt.
    (cornstarch and water) Stir the cornstarch and water to make sure they are well combined, then pour the mixture into the pan. Continue to stir-fry the spinach for about 20 seconds, until the sauce has thickened and become transparent. Serve immediately.