New Discovery: Ong Choy

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My produce discovery journey continues: Last Sunday’s Farmers Market proffered a new-to-me green called ong choy, also known as water spinach.

It is known for tender stalks and long, thin, pointy leaves. Ong choy is indigenous to subtropical and tropical regions, and is commonly used in the cuisines of Southeast Asia.

The farmer who sold me this delightful vegetable advised me to eat the leaves raw in salads and chop the stems into a soup or pasta dish. But by the time I got around to cooking my ong choy, several days after purchase, the leaves had lost their crispness and were begging me to cook them. Far be it for me to ignore the entreaties of a helpless vegetable, so I set about cooking it.

My meal that evening was a simply braised chicken dish with plain couscous on the side, so the ong choy was an ideal accompaniment. If you don’t have access to ong choy, this recipe would work well with any green — spinach, chard, pea shoots or more robust leaves like collards or kale. Just increase the cooking time for the hardier greens.

The addition of lemon zest gave the dish a special something, which was a swell complement to the meal.

Here’s what I did:

Lemony Ong Choy

Serves four

1 large bunch ong choy, rinsed

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon canola oil

¼ teaspoon salt

Red pepper flakes to taste

Zest of ½ lemon

Trim the very bottom end of the stems and discard them. Chop the rest of the ong choy.

In a large skillet, heat the oil, garlic, zest, salt and pepper flakes until sizzling.

Add the ong choy and stir until wilted and cooked through, about six minutes.