The Sambal Kangkong is one of our famous local dishes here in Singapore. In this article, we take a closer look at the main star of this dish – the kangkong. 

Not related to the regular spinach but closely related to the sweet potato and surprisingly, the morning glory, the kangkong is a vegetable that is consumed over the world. Despite being grown as (and considered) a weed in the warmer climates, this vegetable is still a common and popular vegetable in many parts of South-east Asia.

Also Known As

Water Spinach (English); Ung Choi (Cantonese); Vallai Kinai (Tamil); Kankon (Japanese); Pak bang (Thai); Rau Muong (Vietnamese); Liseron d’eau (French)

Flavor Profile

Extremely mild, the kangkong also has a slightly sweet flavour. Unlike other green vegetables, it is not bitter. They are usually picked when the plant is young, and before it flowers. If you encounter bitter kangkong dishes, there is a high chance that either the vegetable is very old or you are tasting the pesticides that went into cultivating that kangkong plant. Going organic will ensure that your kangkong dishes don’t turn out bitter.

Nutritious Benefits

i) Vitamins – The kangkong has carotenoids, lutein and pro-vitA – all of which are important for the synthesis and absorption of the Vitamin A. The Vitamin A is an important vitamin for vision and general eye health. It also contains Vitamins B and C. 

ii) Minerals – This dark green vegetable is extremely rich in iron and calcium. 

iii) Others – The kangkong has also been traditionally used as a medicinal herb. According to Medicinal Health Guide, the following are also some of the uses of this versatile vegetable:

  • Kangkong buds, used as poultice to treat skin diseases such as ringworm, athletes foot etc,
  • Kangkong is used to promote vomiting in poisoning.
  • Kangkong juice mixed with water are used as cold compress to treat fever.
  • Juice from boiled kangkong is used to loosen constipation.
  • Kangkong is also used to treat intestinal worm infestation.
  • In Indian Ayurveda Medicine, kangkong is used to treat jaundice and liver problems.
  • Kangkong leaves are used to treat diabetes in pregnant women.
  • Kangkong is also used as a sedative to promote relaxation and sleep.

Do note that when consumed in large quantities, this vegetable has laxative effects. 

Choosing your Kangkong

Usually sold by the bunch (a bunch is enough for two), the Kangkong typically has long hollow stems with pointed, mid-green leaves. As with all green, leafy vegetables, make sure that the leaves are fresh and not wilted. The hollow stems should be a little crisp to indicate that it is freshly cut/harvested. If the base of the stem is dry, that means that it was harvested the day before. Holes in the leaves are normal and a sign that no chemicals were used in the farming process.

Do note that the kangkong doesn’t keep well. Purchase only when you are intending to cook it soon. They can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Consuming the Kangkong

The Kangkong has a soft crunchy texture when cooked and cooking it is extremely simple – it is usually cut up along the stems and blanched or stir-fried with sauces, chillies/spices, and meat. Do add the stems first before cooking as the leaves wilt really quickly. In Vietnam, this vegetable is eaten raw in salads or thrown into soups fresh.

Sources: AusVeg, MedicinalHealthGuide

Feature Image: survivalfoodplants.com



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