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Ready in less than four minutes, Thai stir fry morning glory (phad pak boong fai daeng) may be the fastest and easiest Asian food you've ever prepared! Despite its simplicity, this spicy and garlic street food dish with fermented soy sauce will also be one of the tastiest.
Unfortunately, this is not a dish that you will often (if ever) see on the menus of Thai restaurants in the West, which is a shame, but I guess it just isn't considered “special” enough.
And, being completely honest, eating street food at a nice, pristine restaurant in Britain is completely devoid of the atmosphere of sitting in a plastic chair by the side of a busy road in Thailand on a warm night, watching the world go by. I will never miss that.
Phad pak boong fai daeng
Although I have eaten fried morning glory throughout Southeast Asia, I first found it in Thailand when I lived in Mae Hee, a small town not far from the Burmese border.
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(Yes, I know it should be called Myanmar, but it is actually quite a controversial topic among Burmese, so I prefer to go with Burma, as it is how everyone I have met from there prefers it to be called. #Digression)
Anyway, when I lived in my little bamboo hut on a lake, I often worked on the veranda at night, I was distracted by jumping fish, little jingjoks screeched at each other, tokay lovers yelling for a partner, blue-crested dragons showing up to say hello …
As I furiously hit my keyboard, my friend, Orn, came and said:
Nico, you work so late. I'll make dinner for you, ka!
And she would treat me to a bowl of sticky rice and a plate of the most delicious stir fry morning glory. I was always dressed in my favorite flower, the frangipani.
After the fifth or sixth time I did it for myself, I finally managed to convince her. I was amazed at how simple it is. And how fast too: it takes only a few minutes, and most of it is preparation; Real cooking takes around 90 seconds!
How to make Thai stir fry morning glory
It's just a case of breaking the morning glory, breaking the garlic, chopping the chilies, and then tossing everything in a really hot wok, along with a little seasoning. Sauté for 90 seconds, and voila!
In case you're wondering, phad = fried, pak boong = morning glory (not a literal translation of course), fai = fire, daeng = red. Basically, the morning glory fried over a burning fire.
Yes folks, we are heating up our woks until eleven for this!
What is the morning glory?
Morning glory is a hollow stem semi-aquatic plant with long spear-shaped leaves. It is used throughout Asia, but it is perhaps best known to visitors to Southeast Asia who have seen theatrical street vendors cook it and then toss it across the street to serve tourists with bulging, gaping eyes.
(Video courtesy of Skip Blumberg.)
The English names for pak boong (ipomoea aquatica) vary; As well as morning glory (not to be confused with the garden plant of the same name, whose seeds have hallucinogenic properties), it is known as a water vine, water spinach, river spinach, Chinese spinach, and Chinese watercress.
Also, without a doubt Shrek's favorite: the swamp cabbage.
Morning Glory in Asia
Throughout Asia, the pak boong (or phak bung) is also known by many names; in China (Cantonese) it is ong choi / choy; it is actually labeled as such in my local Sri Lankan store, even though it is called Kankung in Sinhala. Also called kangkung in Malaysia and Indonesia, and kangkóng in the Philippines. In mandarin-speaking China, it is kongxincai and eng chai in Taiwan.
Burmese, who often serve it with squid, call it kazun, Lao is pak boong, as it is in Thailand, while in Vietnam it is known as rau muống. The Khmer people of Cambodia refer to it as trokuon, and in India it is called differently; Kolmou Xak (Assamese), Vallal (Tamil), Kalmi Saag (Hindi), and Kalmi Shak (Bengali), to name a few.
Naturally, dishes that use pak boong abound, and aside from fried morning glory, one of my favorite ways to eat it is in Thoran, which I ate a lot when I lived in Kerala.
BTW, if you live in Florida, Hawaii, California or Texas, you can find pak boong growing in the wild! If not, it is readily available in Asian stores and online.
Where does this dish come from?
The stir-fry morning glory originated in China, and then spread throughout the Chinese diaspora in Asia, evolving as it traveled. Although the version I make is Thai, I actually rule out fish sauce in favor of light soy and Chinese cooking wine (shaoxing). Of course, if you prefer to use vegan fish sauce, then go for it (forget soy sauce and shaoxing, and use 1 tablespoon of mai nam pla instead).
Thai stir fry morning glory
- packed with vitamins and minerals
Use as many or as few chilies as you like (they are only there for the kick, not to really eat … unless you want, of course); use a ton of garlic or a moderate amount; add a little less broth or even none if you prefer a drier dish; serve it with steamed or sticky rice. It's up to you. But above all, enjoy!
Gin hai aroi ka!
Have you ever had the Thai stir fry morning glory?
Thai stir fry morning glory
Done in under four minutes, this may be the fastest and easiest Asian food you've ever prepared! Despite its simplicity, this morning glory street food dish barely fried in a spicy, garlic and fermented fermented soy sauce will also be one of the tastiest.
Preparation time: 2 minutes.
Cook time: 2 minutes.
Total time: 4 minutes
Yield (slide to fit): 2 servings
Rinse the pak boong, shake it to remove as much water as possible, and then break the entire batch (stems and all) into lengths of 5 cm (2 ") (note 4)
Place the pak boong on a plate or in a bowl, and top with the vegan oyster sauce, light soy, Shaoxing, tao jiao and palm sugar.
Crush or crush the garlic (I use a large kruk – a pestle and mortar from Laos). (note 5)
Partially divide the chiles lengthwise and tap once or twice to release their oils.
Place a wok on the counter and turn the heat up to high. Once you start smoking, add the garlic and chilies and sauté for 10 seconds. (note 6)
Add the pak boong and vegetable stock, if you use it, and continue to sauté for another 60 seconds or so, making sure the greens are covered in the sauce.
Serve immediately with steamed jasmine rice or sticky rice.
- My favorite is Pearl River Bridge's top light soy sauce.
- If you don't have Chinese cooking wine, you can use a tablespoon of dry sherry. In a moment, dry white wine would work, and if you have absolutely nothing else, use a tablespoon of apple or cider juice.
If you don't have or can't get tao jiao (also known as Tauco, Taucu, Taotjo, Tau chu), you can use a tablespoon of doenjang or one of miso. BTW, the resin / peach gum is also called tao jiao (I don't know why)… don't use that!
- The traditional way to do this is to remove the leaves from the main stems and then cut them into pieces; Supposedly, morning glory retains its flavor, but I've prepared it that way, and also just by dividing it all up, and it doesn't make any difference in taste!
- At Amazon.com, kruks are stupidly expensive (they're really cheap here in the UK) but if any of you across the pond want to buy one, Temple of Thai sells them for $ 27. Kruks are great for making salads. Thai (eg Som Tam)
- If you are using an electric or ceramic hob, it will take longer to heat the oil, so you will want to put the wok on the hob when you start preparing the ingredients.
- Nutritional information does not include rice.
- This is also a great way to cook Napa cabbage – just cut into thin slices and follow the recipe, no need to do anything different! If you want to use baby bok choy, keep the leaves and stems whole.
If you like my Thai Morning Stir-Fried Morning Glory recipe, you will love these other delicious peppers!
Glory Tomorrow Recipe Thai Sauté