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Apr 25, 2013 08:30 AM

Water Spinach

Does anyone know where I can buy fresh water spinach (i.e. tongxincai, ong choy, kangkong, Chinese spinach/watercress, rau muong) in Northern Virginia? I've recently looked for it at Great Wall in Merrifield, H Mart in Centreville, and Lotte in Chantilly and couldn't find it there. I've been really enjoying the Chinese Watercress Malaysian Style (Kangkong Belacan) at Taste @ Hong Kong, and now I want to try making it at home.

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  1. I haven't looked this year, but as far as I know, it's been at least several years (probably longer) since any of the Asian grocery stores in this area have sold it.

    The last place I saw it near here was in Philly Chinatown either last year or the year before.

    If you ever find some raw Chinese watercress, you should take some of the hollow stalks and plant it in the ground. Then you won't have to worry about going to a grocery store any more to find it. Just make sure to water it at least twice daily and make sure it has plenty of sunlight and you'll have lots to eat.

    1. When they are in season (I think it's usually spring through fall), they are available in every Chinese market. I know Great Wall carries it, not so sure about the Korean markets (H Mart, Lotte, Grand Mart, etc.).

      7 Replies
      1. re: dpan

        Have you personally seen or bought it from Great Wall in Merrifield? My parents go there every week and have not seen it there over the last several years.

        I've seen spinach at Great Wall but not Chinese Watercress (ong choy) there.

        I think it grows until around some time in September if I remember correctly and then the leaves don't taste as good or are as plentiful anymore.

        1. re: nova_ssss

          Yes. All the time when they are in season. They have them with the bags over the leaves.

          1. re: dpan

            You must be the lucky one. I asked my parents again yesterday and they said they have never seen any ong choy at Great Wall. That's ever since Great Wall Merrifield has been open.

            In any case, whenever you happen to see any ong choy at Great Wall Merrifield, could you let us know here and how much it costs?

            1. re: nova_ssss

              Are they looking in the right place? I think they put them in along the wall on the right in the open refrigerated section along side all the other leafy vegetables like pea pods, watercress, etc.

              1. re: dpan

                Yeah, they're looking in the right place. I can tell you that as of this past Saturday, Great Wall doesn't have any.

                So when you've bought it from there, what section has it been in? Just asking cause you didn't sound sure in your previous post as to where Great Wall puts them.

                1. re: nova_ssss

                  So, water spinach is now in season. Has anyone seen it at any grocery store locally?

                  I was at Great Wall Merrifield this past Sunday. No water spinach anywhere. You'd have to put out an APB to find it there.

                  Or, go up to NYC Chinatown. I was there for the holiday weekend and they were selling water spinach on the sidewalk. 1 pound for $2 or 2 pounds for $3.50 from a vendor on Canal Street near Tai Pan Bakery.

                  1. re: nova_ssss

                    Apologies for the wild goose chase. My wife bought some a few weeks ago. She got it at a small Vietnamese grocery in Centreville (Park N Shop on Lee Highway near Pickwick). I think most of this is grown locally by backyard growers. You may try the small Vietnamese groceries to see if they have any.

      2. I have not seen it in Chinese grocery store, but it must be around somewhere because I had it at a local restaurant last week.

        1 Reply
        1. re: comestibles

          I've always thought it was odd that the restaurants would have it (even when it's not in season) but the Chinese grocery stores would not.

        2. My wife's uncle Isaac was a cress harvester in Frederick County years ago. He used to supply many Chinese restaurants in Washington. I googled watercress maryland and discovered a 1941 account of the cress business here Perhaps Isaac learned the business from this fellow. Cress is plentiful in streams in Frederick and Washington Counties.

          A few years ago I was given a bushel or so leftover from someone who brought it in to a market where I sell antiques. The cress grows in streams and should be available May through Sept. I am surprised with the popularity of ramps that more people are not cashing in on cress.

          1 Reply
          1. re: baltimorejim

            Wow...what a great article! I wonder if the Johnson mentioned in the article is related to the Johnson family that used to own the farmland of our neighborhood....

          2. i know i've seen it at eden center in that very small veggie stall over in the west side inside arcade -- the arcade where "Phung Hoang" restaurant is located.

            BUT, i haven't been there lately; it might be worth a shot, as they have lots of veggies. if you go, stop into Phung Hoang and get their delicious lotus root salad!

            not an immediate solution, but maybe think of buying an earth box to grow some of your favorite asian veggies and herbs. i think i'm going to do that this year -- once it warms up, that is.