It is very common to see patrons order this dish of spicy stir-fried kang kong/spinach at local zi char restaurants (‘zi char’ = stir-fry; meaning restaurants with a huge kitchen to whip up home-style dishes). Usually, you would be able to see tables at such restaurants piled up with seafood dishes such as chilli crabs, prawns, grilled stingrays and steamed fish, plus one or two dishes of meat such as deer meat, plus one or two dishes of stir-fried rice or noodles, plus one or two dishes of vegetables or tofu etc. There aren’t usually many plates of vegetables, as far as I observed, but I must say, this dish of sambal kang kong is one of the most favoured of all.
Sambal kang kong is definitely one of the must-trys for visitors and tourists in Singapore, though one should be cautious about its level of spiciness. The good ones have a really fragrant gravy that is made up of a well-blended chilli prawn paste as well as fresh vegetable leaves and stems (but not too many stems please) that remain crunchy after they are dished up for serving.
Although the chilli prawn paste takes a bit of time to prepare, the dish itself is really easy to make. In fact, you can make more of the paste and store it in the freezer for use any time you feel like having a little something to spice up your palette, just like I did here.
- Dried shrimp: 50g (6 tbsp), soaked for 30min
- Chilli padi: 10
- Dried chilli: 6, soaked for 30 min
- Garlic: 6 cloves
- Shallot: 10
- Oil: 6 tbsp + 2 tbsp
- Belacan: 30g (6 tsp)
- Kangkong: 250g, stems and leaves separated
- White pepper: a pinch
- Water: 1/2 cup
- Blend shrimp, chilli padi, dried chilli, garlic and shallots into a paste.
- Heat 6 tbsp oil in wok. Fry belacan for 2min till soft and fragrant.
- Add blended chilli paste. Fry till fragrant and colour darkens.
- Divide sambal paste into 5 portions. Set aside 1 portion and store the rest in the freezer for use next time.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok. Fry sambal paste for 1 min.
- Add stems of kangkong and stir-fry for 1 min.
- Add leaves of kangkong, pepper and water. Fry till leaves are starting to wilt and remove from heat.
- Serve hot with plain rice.
- Do not leave the kangkong stems and leaves to simmer in the gravy for too long. The ideal dish should still allow one to feel the crunch of the stem when one bites into it.
- There is no need to add any salt while cooking as the belacan from the sambal paste is already salty enough.
- Use the same paste to stir-fry long beans, which is what I personally prefer to eat.
5 portions of 3 servings each (both for storage and cooking)