While the Bayam might sound like an exotic vegetable, this variety of leafy greens is actually very common and ubiquitous. Most people in Asia consume it regularly and even if you’re not in Asia, you’ve probably eaten a variation of it. The Bayam a variety of the popular Spinach with pointed (instead of rounded) leaves. Commonly called the Chinese Spinach, not to be confused with water spinach (kangkong), there are even green and red varieties.
Also Known As
For our overseas readers, the Bayam is universally known Amaranth leaves from the Amarantus plant. Because it is consumed all over the world, this leafy green goes by many names. Here’s a few of the common names they go by in Asia:
Philippines: Kalunay or Kulitis
Vietnam: Rau Dền
The Bayam leaves are generally sweet with a little tangy taste that makes it a great salad ingredient. Here at Quan Fa Organic, we offer both the green and the red variation of the Bayam. The red Bayam is a more popular choice among our customers as it is sweeter, more flavourful and is touted to be more nutritious because it has more protein, calcium and phosphor than its green counterparts.
Part of the reason why the Bayam is a popular vegetable all over the world is because of its inherent nutritious properties that come along with consuming it:
i) Vitamins – Like the Cai Xin and the Kai Lan, the Bayam is also rich in Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is good for eye health and enhancing eyesight, and Vitamin C is known for building up your immune system. The Bayam is also rich in Folate, a water-soluble Vitamin B.
ii) Minerals – The Bayam also brings with it essential minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese. These minerals are needed for the overall health of your body.
iii) Others – Extremely high in Protein, the Bayam is a good choice for vegetarians, vegans, and especially gluten-intolerant consumers to get their daily requirement of protein. In traditional medicine, the Bayam is even used to treat dizziness and hypertension.
Choosing Your Bayam
Almost always the same as choosing all kinds of green leafy vegetables, look out for strong healthy stalks. Make sure that they are not limp or slimy. Holes in the leaves are normal and a sign that no chemicals were used in the farming process.
The Bayam is an excellent vegetable for stir-frying, boiling, steaming and sautéing. Because it cooks faster than the regular spinach, take care not to overcook it. The red Bayam’s color will bleed into any cooking liquid, so creative chefs love using the red colour to add a touch of flair to their dishes. However, if you don’t want the colour to seep into your dishes, you may want to cook it separately and adding to the main dish just before serving.
Hungry for a snack? Try the Bayam Cracker! People in southern areas of Central Java dip Bayam leaves into a batter of diluted rice flour spiced with coriander, garlic and salt. They are then fried crispy in sufficient oil. The Bayam Cracker can be consumed as a snack or an alternative light meal/side dish. Just make your favorite batter or use ready-mixed tempura batter for a quick, easy and delicious dish.
Did you know: The Bayam is an honorable vegetable and even the 12th century Arab writer Ibn-al Awam consumed and liked it, calling it the prince of vegetables.
Feature Image: cookedearthblog.com