Rau Muong, also known as water spinach and morning glory, is a leafy swamp vegetable that grows in abundance in Vietnam. Here in the States, you can find them in Asian grocery stores when they are in season. It’s easy to spot Rau Muong, even if you are not familiar with it. It’s a tubular stem vegetable with big green leaves. Just look for a large green bouquet, something Ms. America would be holding. The prized part of the vegetable is the tender shoots. Most of the leaves are usually discarded as too much can give a dish a slimy texture.
A traditional Vietnamese side dish is Rau Muong Xao Thit Bo (Stir-Fried Water Spinach with Beef). It’s a tasty and healthy side dish that goes great with steamed white rice. You can also make it without the beef. Simply stir fry the water spinach with oyster sauce and lots of garlic (Rau Muong Xao Toi). Garlic and water spinach go hand-in-hand. I also love to top the dish with deep-fried garlic for a beautiful and crunchy garnish. Sometimes I use fried shallots if I don’t have fried garlic on hand, as shown in the pictures here.
When it come to stir-frys, I usually blanch all my vegetables beforehand. This not only cooks the vegetables evenly without requiring of lot of tossing and consequently, bruising, but it also gives me an opportunity to shock the vegetables in iced water. Shocking vegetables in an iced bath after blanching stops the cooking process and prevents the green from darkening to a yucky yellow/brown color. But most importantly, it makes the shoots incredibly tender, especially water spinach. I skipped this step in the past because … laziness. The result was sub-par and a waste of water spinach. Don’t be lazy. Blanch!
For this recipe, you really don’t need any extra dipping sauce as it’s well marinated. The beef is marinated with stock powder, minced garlic, salt, sugar and pepper. The water spinach is also tossed in garlic and oyster sauce. Although there’s very little need for dipping sauce, most people will serve this with a side the classic fish sauce dipping sauce (nuoc mam cham) or a simple soy sauce with a chili pepper on top (as pictured above).
Rau Muong (water spinach) was the only leafy green I loved as a kid so I wasn’t too surprised when my picky eaters ate them happily as well. They, however, did not like the leaves. Like I said previously, the leaves has a slight slimy texture when cooked. I tend to get rid most of the leaves when making this dish and only keep the tender ones at the tip.
Vietnamese Stir-Fried Water Spinach/Morning Glory with Beef (Rau Muong Xao Thit Bo)
- 1 lb beef sirlion (thinly slice against the grain)
- 2 teaspoons chicken/mushroom/pork stock powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic (finely mince)
- 3 lbs Water Spinach (Rau Muong; also known as Morning Glory)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 6 garlic cloves (finely mince; divided)
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Fried garlic/shallots (optional)
- Marinate beef with stock powder, sugar, black pepper, salt and garlic for at least 30 minutes.
- Prep the water spinach by cutting off a bit of the old and rough shoot ends. Remove excess leaves and cut into 5-inch segments. Separate shoots from leaves as their cooking time differs.
- Fill a large skillet or wok halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Prepare an iced bath (use lots of ice) and place it nearby. Add water spinach to the boiling water and blanch shoots for no more than 1 minute. Blanch leaves for no more than 30 seconds. Quickly transfer to iced bath to maintain vibrant green color and tenderness. Once cool, remove from ice bath and drain dry.
- Return skillet or wok back to the stove. Make sure it's clean and empty. Add vegetable oil (2 tablespoons) and heat on medium-high. Add two minced garlic cloves and saute until fragrant then add half of the marinated beef in single layer and cook until beef just turn color. Do not overcook beef! Transfer beef to a plate and repeat with the other half of beef and 2 cloves minced garlic.
- In a small bowl, mix together oyster sauce and sugar. Set aside.
- Clean the wok and return back to stove. Heat another two tablepoons vegetable oil and add the remaining two minced garlic cloves. Saute until fragrant. Add blanched water spinach and oyster sauce mixture. Lightly toss water spinach until evenly coated with oyster sauce. Add beef to wok and lightly toss. Serve with steamed rice and optional soy dipping sauce on the side.