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.

Water Spinach with Garlic and Fermented Tofu
According to Martha Dahien, Chinese cooks know that water spinach "tastes best cooked with something of intense . . . flavor", such as the fermented tofu in this recipe.
Yield: serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch water spinach (about 1 lb.), washed and trimmed
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, bruised with flat side of knife until juicy, coarsely chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. fermented tofu

Instructions

  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.