What is Water Spinach (KangKong) ? A familiar vegetable that you can easily find in grocery stores, wet markets, served at restaurants as a main dish or side dish, or easily cooked at home. It is a herbaceous perennial tropical plant that is aquatic or semi-aquatic, known for it’s tender hollow shoots or stems. A native plant in many Asian countries, this fast growing plant is actually ranked among the healthiest food in the world. As the trend of superfoods and eating more healthy is rising, this meek little ingredient even got its time to shine.
A Short Introduction
Water Spinach (with the scientific name Ipomoea aquatica) is also known as ‘Morning Glory’ and in China the ‘Empty Heart Vegetable’ it is a leafy vegetable that’s commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisine. Has a lightly sweet nutty taste, and crunchy slippery texture when cooked. These are shockingly more closely related to sweet potatoes than to spinach, as opposed to its name. A bit similar to watercress, these have a hollow stem, arrowhead shaped leaves and grow tall in organic rich soil, or semi aquatic in swampy grounds.
Found in tropical and subtropical countries, harvested in just 20 days with little attention and care, this leafy vegetable has been farmed for generations. Because of the ease of the process and growth of demand. This crop is favored by many farmers especially in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Records state that these have been cultivated since 300 AD or very early on, used as medicine and for its therapeutic effect. While it’s cooked in many dishes across Asia, back then, it was considered a weed in the West. Though if you do give them a try you’ll not only be glad to have found a new delicacy to add into your dishes to make a quick lunch or dinner, a nice vegetarian option to get some of the health benefits in, but also another delicious way to add vitamins and nutrients this plant can provide.
Water Spinach Benefits (Kangkong Benefits)
A powerhouse among its leafy peers, the Water Spinach nutrition is abundant. Seen as a common ingredient this meek leafy veggie works wonders to the body.
- These greens are low in calories and rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, and minerals.
- Because it has antioxidants, it also prevents the possible growth of cancer cells.
- Lowers and helps maintain cholesterol.
- Is rich in fiber which helps modulate and detoxify the liver. Great for constipation, and aids in digestion and other stomach troubles.
- A good source of Iron and Zinc which is needed to prevent anemia, especially beneficial to pregnant or menstruating women.
- Good for the eyes, as it contains nutrients lutein and carotenoids which help prevent eye conditions like cataracts.
- Has anti-aging properties, maintains the growth of cells as well as protects the system from harmful elements and chemicals. Even helps nourish and rejuvenate the skin and minimizes wrinkles.
- For healthy scalp and hair. Kangkong has some similar components with that of Aloe Vera.
- In some cultures, these are grounded with salt, dabbed onto insect bites, sore or itchy skin for immediate relief.
- Water Spinach side effects; like most ingredients when eaten too much off, it can have side effects such as increase in kidney stones, aggravate gout, and hinder with blood thinner medicine. Do consult a doctor if unsure.
Filipino dishes that use Kangkong
Water Spinach in Tagalong is ‘Kangkong’, in the Philippines it grows in swampy areas. Compared to many overpriced vegetables, these are cheap, nutritious, and mild tasting, making it easily adaptable to add into savory recipes. Great for those who need to maintain a balanced diet. Here are some water spinach recipes (Kangkong recipes) :
- Stir-fry Kangkong, ( in English Stir fried water spinach) emphasises the tender but still crunchy kangkong stem, a side dish cooked with garlic, onions, seasonings. This is the quickest and simplest but tasty way to enjoy water spinach.
- Added into Pork Sinigang for color and extra benefits.
- You can also find them added into Gimbap or Korean rice rolls, as a replacement for spinach if you like that extra crunch or because of availability.
- For vegetarians, you can use them in Adobo as a meat replacement. They’re also great for sipping up the sauces. They’re called ‘Adobong Kangkong’.
- In grocery stores or wellness grocery stores, they can be sold as crispy kangkong also known as kangkong chips where they are fried in batter, flour, or other gluten free options with spices. As a ‘healthy’ replacement for potato chips.
- In western countries you can find them added into salads and drinks such as water melon spinach salad, watermelon spinach smoothie, as coloring or turned into a dip.
The familiar Kangkong might be too simple for some, but it’s something that you can buy and guarantee that the dish will taste great even with simple ingredients. A substantial vegetable that can be cooked in many different ways.