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Thai-Style Water Spinach (Pad Pak Boong)

Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 16 mins
Total time 16 mins
Yield Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup)
I've had the joy of visiting Thailand numerous times in recent years. During one visit, I fell in love with a vegetable they call pak boong, or morning glory. It's also known as water spinach, and I must confess it may be slightly harder to find in the states. Ask around, though. Asian markets usually have it and you can, of course, order it online. Use hearty varieties of chinese broccoli, watercress, or bok choy so you can learn the technique. This dish is about putting raging heat under your command.


  • 6 red and green Thai bird chiles
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 of the smallest garlic cloves possible, preferably not pre-peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds pak boong, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), watercress, or bok choy cut into 3-inch sections
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

Nutrition Information

  • calories 145
  • fat 6.6 g
  • satfat 1.1 g
  • monofat 3 g
  • polyfat 1.4 g
  • protein 9 g
  • carbohydrate 14 g
  • fiber 2 g
  • cholesterol 14 mg
  • iron 1 mg
  • sodium 266 mg
  • calcium 57 mg

How to Make It

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, roughly smash the chiles with the sugar and the garlic. The chiles should be bruised, but still whole. The garlic should turn slightly translucent from the pounding, but should not be turned into a paste. You're simply looking to release flavor, not make a uniform mixture.

  2. Heat a wok or large, flat-sided fry pan to the highest heat your stove can handle. Before cooking, back it off a bit--to medium-high heat.

  3. Add the pork to the pan. Stir-fry until well browned and crispy, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a small bowl, leaving the little remaining fat behind.

  4. Now, add the canola oil. Swirl and scrape. This should take about 15 to 20 seconds.

  5. Add the smashed garlic and chile mixture. Stir for 15 seconds.

  6. Raise the heat back to high. Add the greens. Pour in the oyster sauce and the fish sauce.

  7. Think in this cadence: Wilt. Stir. Wilt. Stir. Wilt. Turn off. Rest. Let each "round" take about 20 to 30 seconds, for a total of about 2 minutes, depending upon the intensity of your heat.

  8. Add the pork and broth, and toss.

  9. Transfer to a serving platter or shallow bowl. Spoon any remaining sauce over the greens. Serve immediately.

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