Water Spinach with Garlic and Fermented Tofu
(Fu Ru Jiao Si Chao Tan Cai)
Water spinach has long, hollow stems and medium-size, tender leaves. According to A Cook's Guide to Chinese Vegetables by Martha Dahlen (Odyssey, 1997), Chinese cooks know that water spinach "tastes best cooked with something of intense . . . flavor", such as the fermented tofu in this recipe.
1 bunch water spinach (about 1 lb.), washed
3 tbsp. peanut oil
2–4 cloves garlic, bruised with flat side of knife
until juicy, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. fermented tofu
1. Cut the spinach into 3"-long pieces. If any stems are thicker than 1⁄3", cut them in half lengthwise, or they'll be too chewy when cooked. Spin the pieces dry in a salad spinner. (The leaves should be very dry; damp leaves will cause the final dish to be too watery.)
2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and stir-fry until the garlic has just lost its rawness, about 1 minute. Add the fermented tofu and stir it vigorously around in the wok until it dissolves, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the spinach, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir-fry until the spinach is just limp, the leaves are bright green, and the stems are still crisp, 2–3 minutes. Taste for salt, adding only a pinch more if necessary. (The fermented
tofu will add some saltiness.) Transfer to a large serving platter and spread out slightly so that the spinach doesn't continue to cook too much. Serve immediately.