Rau Muong, or water spinach, is a swamp vegetable that grows in abundance in Vietnam. Here in the States you can find them readily available in Asian grocery stores when they are in season. During the off season, you can still find them but for the cost of half a kidney. Rau Muong is a tubular stem vegetable with big leaves. The tender shoots are the prized part of the vegetable. The leaves are often discarded as too many can give a dish a slimy texture.
My favorite way to have Rau Muong is simply to blanch them and then dip them in a fish sauce dipping sauce (Nuoc Cham) or a diluted fermented shrimp paste sauce just right before eating. For more built-in flavor, I stir-fry them with garlic and oyster sauce. Below is a recipe for a very simple garlic Rau Muong stir-fry. This version is used when I need to get a traditional Vietnamese dish quickly on a table before the elderly starts judging.
- 1 lb water spinach (thoroughly wash; remove ends and cut into 3-inch segments)
- 3 garlic cloves (peel and cut roughly)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3/4 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon Oyster sauce
- Fill a wok or large pan with 2 inches of water. Heat until you have a rolling boil.
- Add the water spinach and blanch until all have wilted down (about 1-2 minutes). Stir the water spinach for even blanching.
- Drain the water spinach in a colander and set aside.
- Return the empty wok back to the stove and heat on high.
- Add the vegetable oil and saute the garlic until fragrant (30 seconds).
- Add the sugar and oyster sauce.
- Add the water spinach and lightly toss for even coating.
- Once coated with the sauce, transfer to a serving platter and serve with white rice and other Vietnamese side dishes for a traditional homecooked meal.