Stir-Fry Water Spinach With Shrimp Paste (Belacan Kangkung)

Foodista Cookbook Entry

Category: Main Dishes | Blog URL:

This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.


Water spinach (ong choi), 300g-400g
tablespoon Olive oil, 2
Salt, to taste
Red Chilies, 3
Garlic, 2 cloves
teaspoon Belacan/Dried Shrimp paste (toasted), 1
tablespoon Water, 2


Wash ong choi/kangkung/water spinach and cut into 2-3 inch in length. Set aside.
Grind chilies, garlic, shallots and belacan/dried shrimp paste.
Heat oil in a wok/pan, then saute the spice paste until fragrant. Add in tiger prawns, stir and cook until the prawns turn orange/pink.
Add in ong choi/kangkung/water spinach and water, stir and mix well.
Stir-fry on high heat for about 2-3 minutes until it’s soft.
Serve hot with boiled rice.


There are certain ingredients that I can only get in Chinatown, that also applies to some vegetables. Just a few days ago, I did my normal food shopping at a local supermarket, I spotted something that looks really familiar. I wasn’t sure. So, I picked up the packet and read and label. It says ‘Ong Choi’. Ok, sounds a bit like ‘Eng Chai’ (in Hokkien dialect). I had a thorough look, from different angles I could. I was finally certain to put that packet in my basket. I mumbled “Should be Kangkung or Eng Chai.”

I notice more and more Oriental vegetables are sold at the local supermarkets. I then found out that there is one farm in the UK that grows only Oriental vegetables, such as Pak Choi, Kai Choi, Choi Sum, Kai Lan, Tong Ho, and Ong Choi. It’s a good news for me as it would make it easier to get Oriental vegetables!

Water spinach is also commonly known as swamp cabbage, water convolvulus, water morning-glory, kangkung (in Malay & Indonesian), eng chai (Hokkien), kongxincai ???, and ong choi (Cantonese). It is very popular and widely used in South East Asia cooking and grows naturally in waterways.

Ong choi/kangkung/water spinach is the kind of vegetables that I have long missed! ‘Belacan kangkung’ is usually a common dish that is served either for lunch or dinner at home. There are many ways to cook ong choi/kangkung/water spianch. I think the most popular way is to stir-fry with shrimp paste and chilies. I just love a bit of spice in this dish to go with plain boiled rice.

Belacan is made from fermented ground shrimps. It has pungent flavour and it’s one of the MUST HAVE ingredients in the Malaysian kitchen. You can omit belacan if you feel that the smell if too strong for you or cut down the quantity.

To make belacan kangkung, it doesn’t require a lot of effort at all. As I love prawns, I have added some fresh tiger prawns instead of dried shrimps. I can eat just this and rice and usually end up really happy!


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Saturday, February 27, 2010 - 1:17am


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