Ong Choy: New Season, New Discovery

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Ong choy. Photos by Keri White

Ong choy, aka water spinach, is a long, green, leafy vegetable with hollow stems that can be eaten from top to bottom. I saw it for the first time at the farmers market last week.

The farmer explained to me that it is highly nutritious and, unlike some other leafy greens with tough stems that often have to be removed, you can eat every bit of it.

Ong choy is rich in vitamins A and C and also contains iron and calcium.


It behaves like bok choy — cooking rather quickly and lending itself to a brief sauté, but I suspect it would be good in soup as well. I served the ong choy with chicken curry, so I integrated cumin seeds to complement the Indian menu. If this is not to your liking, skip them and stick with garlic, salt and pepper, or consider a few shavings of fresh ginger, a dash of soy, a sprinkle of cayenne or whatever suits your fancy.

Ong Choy with Cumin
Serves 2 generously

I took the farmer’s advice and ate the whole vegetable from leaf to stem, just trimming off the very bottom and slicing the stems into small pieces while leaving the leaves on the larger side. Because the stem is hollow — it is much less tough than, for example, a kale or collard green stem — this is doable.

However, some fussier palates may prefer the more tender leaves. It is by no means as “woody” as the stems of some hardier greens, but the texture is different from the leaf. Know your audience, and proceed accordingly.

1 bunch ong choy, rinsed and coarsely chopped (chop the stem into small pieces)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ tablespoon canola or other mild-flavored oil

In a large skillet, heat the oil with the garlic, salt, pepper and cumin over medium. Sauté until fragrant and the seeds start to toast and pop, about 4 minutes.

Add the ong choy and sauté, turning it over with tongs until wilted and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

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