Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Garlic and Shrimp Paste

Kankong Belacan


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    4 to 6

    servings as part of multi-dish meal

Appears in

Water spinach has as many aliases as a Cold War double-agent: “morning glory,” “hollow heart spinach,” “ong choy,” and “kangkong” are just a few used in Malaysia and Singapore. This very popular green vegetable grows in shallow water all around Southeast Asia. Its unique structure allows for a peculiar preparation for cooking. The large top leaves hide tiny, tender baby leaves, or “leaflets” lower on the straw-like stem. Snap and pick the greens underneath each stem leaflet.


  • 2 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. Sesame oil
  • 1 med. Long red chili or other spicy red chili, minced or pounded
  • 4 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. (454 g.) Water spinach (pg. 76) (about 8 cups)
  • 1 tsp. Malaysian shrimp paste (belacan), toasted
  • as needed Kosher salt


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large (10 to 12-inch / 25-30 cm.) sauté pan or wok over high heat until it shimmers, but does not smoke. Add garlic; cook until it just begins to lightly brown, less than a minute. Add shrimp paste, stir for a few seconds, and then immediately add the water spinach. Stir-fry often until leaves are wilted and cooked, about 3 minutes.
  2. Thoroughly stir in the sesame oil. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt.