It always makes me happy to see water spinach in season. Sometimes known as the “hollow stem” spinach or Ong Choy, this popular vegetable among the working class, especially peasants, in Southeast Asia back in the old days is now widely enjoyed by mostly everyone. It is common in Cantonese cuisine to fry this leafy vegetable with fermented bean curd.
So what is fermented bean curd? The same question was asked in Jackie Chan’s movie Armour of God (1987), to which Chan answered: “It’s Chinese cheese.” (Please don’t ask me why I remember random sh** like that). Similar to the process of making cheese, bean curd is exposed to aerial bacteria and fungal spores to achieve the status of fermentation, for preservation purpose and its damn good taste.
So to make this dish:
Wash the vegetable thoroughly and cut it into roughly 2-inch segments, leaves and stems. Heat up oil in a wok/frying pan. When the oil is hot enough, drop in 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 2 cubes of bean curd. Stir-fry the garlic and bean curd for 2 minutes. Drop in the spinach. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and pour in a tablespoon of the brine from the bean curd. Taste to see if it’s salty enough— if not, add salt. Depending on the brand of bean curd you get, you may get varying degrees of the fermented taste/saltiness.