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Water Spinach

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Water Spinach

Chinatown's produce stands offer many items that make only fleeting seasonal appearances, often so brief that the intrepid chefs at the Blue Cleaver scarcely have time to figure out how to cook them properly before they disappear for another year. One example: water spinach.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables), 5704 8th Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn

We have learned that the Cantonese name for water spinach translates as "hollow vegetables." Indeed, the stems of this leafy green are much akin to drinking straws, making them easy to spot amid similar items.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables)

In early May, bunches of fresh water spinach will be piled high on stands around Canal Street, Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, and Main Street in Flushing. Stems should be firm and bright, with no wilted leaves, and they should cost you around $2 per pound, give or take a quarter.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables)

To cook up a mess of these greens, just trim off the very ends of the stems and chop up the rest, mixing stems and leaves together.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables) Ingredients: Oil, Mirin, Sesame Oil

Pour a little bit of oil (we used chili-infused olive and a drop of sesame) and a splash of mirin (sweet cooking wine) in a wok.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables): Garlic and Ginger Added

When it's hot, add in some sliced garlic and ginger.

Water Spinach (Hollow Vegetables) in Wok

After a minute or two, throw in the greens and cook very briefly so they just wilt. You want to keep the stems crunchy.

Sprinkle a little rice vinegar and soy sauce on top, maybe even a dab of hot sauce, and you're ready to serve.


"Empty Vegetables," Village Voice, April 28, 2006

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