This weekend at Melting Wok, I saw this wonderful recipe for a beautiful asian green called mong toi, or malabar spinach (see original recipe post for more info on this vegetable). I knew I had seen it in the asian grocery, and it looked so appetizing, I had to try it. Happily, yesterday, I was able to pass by the store and found a very fresh bunch of mong toi. Because greens can be so perishable, I wanted to cook as soon as possible.
I decided to make a vegetarian version. Mushrooms that have gone slightly too far to eat raw can be pan-fried to make an extremely flavorful dish on their own. I had a package of mushrooms like this, so I pan-fried them to take the place of dried fish. Cooking the mushrooms might seem complicated on paper (or screen), but in practice it’s really very easy and well worth the little extra time.
Greens and mushrooms, garlic and wine have a strong affinity for one another. I increased the amount of garlic in the recipe and skipped the sesame oil and fish/oyster sauce. The heady aroma of Shaoxing wine, the fragrant ginger and garlic paste, and the mellow soy sauce along with the earthy mushroom liquid all combined to make a simple yet complex little sauce for the veggies.
While some of the greens did become slightly slippery, I did not find it unpleasant, and I detected no aftertaste. I would suggest serving this immediately, however, before the greens have time to sit too long. They will continue to cook a little in the hot sauce. If the idea of even a little slippery turns you away, I’m sure this would be equally tasty with any other spinach-like green.
All in all this is a delightful new vegetable to add to my list of favorites. Thanks, Shirley, for a fabulous new veggie and great recipe inspiration!
Mong Toi with Mushrooms
1/2 bunch mong toi/malabar spinach (about 2 c torn leaves)
12-16 oz fresh mushrooms, preferably a little past their prime
1 tsp plus a spritz of canola oil
1 tsp ginger paste
1 TB garlic paste
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp shaoxing wine (sake or cooking sherry would probably work in a pinch)
mushroom cooking liquid (see below)
salt to taste (only if necessary since soy sauce can be salty)
Wash the mong toi carefully, tear larger leaves into pieces and leave to drain.
Wash the mushrooms with minimal water and dry them well. Separate the stems from the caps. Slice the stems medium-thick, and cut the stems in half. Heat a nonstick frying pan on high heat. Spray with Pam, or use a small spritz of oil (if you prefer not to use nonstick pans, you will need about 1 tsp oil for this). When pan is quite hot, add the mushrooms. Let them cook two or three minutes undisturbed. They should begin to release some of their moisture. Lift the pan slightly off the burner and shake back and forth, holding it level to the stove, giving the mushrooms a little toss without stirring them. Return pan to the hot burner and let the mushrooms cook a few minutes more, then shake-toss again. Repeat several times, until the mushrooms are turning brown and smelling wonderful. When they are well browned, remove to a bowl and set aside. Soon a little liquid will begin to accumulate in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t drain it off.
In the same pan, heat 1 tsp canola oil (or spray with Pam again) on medium-high. Add ginger and garlic pastes and stir-fry a minute or two, until they begin to stick to the pan. Add a little of the reserved mushroom liquid. Continue to stir another minute or two, then add the torn mong toi leaves and mushrooms. Stir-fry 1-2 minutes, until leaves begin to wilt. Add the wine and soy sauce. Stir-fry just another minute or so, until all is blended. Remove from the heat, salt to taste, and serve at once.
Want to grow some mong toi? Check out Kitazawa Seeds