Since my mom’s thit kho recipe is one of my most popular posts, I thought I’d share another traditional Vietnamese recipe. While I was in Boston, I got to visit the new small Korean grocery store, H Mart, in Cambridge. So I looked up if they existed in Chicago, and lo and behold there’s one in the suburbs! We took a trip out there last weekend- I love this grocery store! There’s a food court in it with delicious Korean food! And they sell marinated meat, and lots of other goodies that are hard to find elsewhere (the best instant Ramen, enoki mushrooms, Korean melons, lychees, kimchi… I’m just listing stuff we bought.) In particular, they sell a vegetable under the name ong choy, which is also known as water spinach, morning glory, and in Vietnamese, rau muống. If you ever go to Vietnam, Rau muống xào tỏi is pretty much the cooked vegetable side dish you’ll get. Maybe some veggies in a soup, but overall there it’s a lot of fresh veggies with whatever you’re eating, or this garlicky tasty side dish.
You can also get this dish in Chinese restaurants, where they often put oyster sauce on it. But we’re cooking Vietnamese today, so fish sauce all the way! Also, I haven’t seen this dish a ton in Vietnamese restaurants, but it’s in most homes- we compared it to how most American restaurants don’t have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ubiquitous.
My great-aunt has a nifty tool for splitting the woody stems so you can eat them. But I’m lazy/don’t like stems so I just cut them off and discarded them. Make sure you wash the veggies really well- just like spinach it’s easy to get dirt in the leaves. Then chop them into two-inch segments.
Heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a big skillet over medium-high heat. Then roughly chop up some garlic cloves and put into the oil.
Let that cook for a few minutes until very lightly brown, then dump in all of the veggies.
If you’ve washed them thoroughly and not dried them, the water sticking to them should be enough. But if it’s not (like if you start seeing dry looking leaves around), add a handful of water (a couple tablespoons).
This cooks pretty fast- 5-6 minutes fast. Just like spinach! Give it a good stir every minute or two; I’m not a constant-stirring kind of person (so I’ve never made risotto).
While that’s cooking, make your nuoc cham-dipping sauce. This is a lot of sugar, some lime juice, some fish sauce, minced garlic, and water. My mom always says to do it to taste, but it’s roughly equal amounts of sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce as a base, then add an equal amount of water (so double the volume by using water). Then add a tiny pinch more sugar, and whisk it all together. Taste it and see if it’s too limey or too fishy, and add water/sugar/lime until it tastes good. You can mince a few garlic cloves and/or a few hot peppers and add them too- I went with garlic this time.
My mom likes to dip the cooked veggies in the sauce, but I was feeling lazy so I just poured a bunch of it over the vegetables. We don’t like adding fish sauce to dishes that are cooking because then the whole house smells like fish sauce- just add it afterwards. Then I took the leftover garlicky sauce and poured it over some steamed salmon, and we had a meal with white rice.
Rau muong xao toi (from my mom)
A bunch of ong choy/water spinach/morning glory
Six-eight cloves of garlic
1-2 TB Fish sauce
Half a lime
1-2 TB Sugar
1. Wash the greens WELL.
2. Heat up some oil in a big pan. Cook rice/protein now if you want.
3. Roughly chop five or six cloves of garlic and add to the oil.
4. Chop up the greens into two inch pieces. Discard woody stems.
5. When garlic is lightly brown, add the greens to the pan. Stir. Cook for five-six minutes, until everything is wilted and cooked-looking.
6. Mix juice of half a lime with 1 TB of sugar. Add 1 TB of fish sauce and 3 TB of water, stir until sugar is totally dissolved. Add a pinch more sugar. Taste. Add more fish sauce, lime juice, or sugar to taste. Optional: mince two more cloves of garlic and add to dipping sauce.
7. Either serve warm greens with dipping sauce, or pour sauce over greens. Eat!