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Aug 24, 2013 04:03 PM

Ong choy / phak bung

I love the stir-friend ong choy / phak bung (Thai: ผักบุ้ง according to Wikipedia) with garlic and chilis at Rod Dee. It's water spinach, the one with both crunchy stem bits and soft leafy bits. Goes great with the meat-heavy pad kra pao with beef. But they never seem to have them in stock these days. Any place you'd recommend so I can get a regular fix?

While "researching" for this post, I found an old thread about pea pod stems, which I also love but isn't the same veg. At least I don't think it is.

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  1. Do you mean a cooked dish at a restaurant, or do you mean where to buy the ingredient? For the ingredients, this can be found in any of the Chinese markets. There are two varieties - a lighter green kind that usually appears thicker. The slightly darker green variety is typically cheaper. Ong choy is a Cantonese moniker - in Mandarin it's more often referred to as "toong cai" (hollow vegetable, given it's tubular stalks). These are definitely not pea pod stems.

    Most of the Chinese restaurants will also have this on hand for stir-frying. A typical Cantonese rendition is to have it stir-fried with fermented bean curd. My favorite rendition of this ingredient though is the Malaysian Kangkung belacan - salty, spicy and shrimp-pasty - which you can get at Penang.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kobuta

      I should have been clearer - I meant cooked dishes. I think the Rod Dee version is done with the darker, thinner-tube type.

      Thanks for the Penang tip, I'll have to try that. I've had some good kangkong at restaurants in Manila which also had noticeable shrimp paste flavor.

      Looks like I need to make a list of what it's called in all the diff languages: ong choy, phak bung, toong cai, kangkong / kangkung.

      1. re: lossless

        I never quite know how I should romanize here since I'm not sure if readers know official pinyin. Pinyin would be tong cai (the Cantonese equivalent is also immediately recognizable). In mandarin, you'll also hear it referred to as kongxin cai (hollow heart vegetable, 空心菜).

        1. re: kobuta

          The Chinese characters are appreciated, since I can copy them onto my phone and show them to the waiter as a last, desperate measure. I did this with good success at Thailand Cafe (RIP).