Mong Toi or Malabar Spinach with Mushrooms

mong toi
fresh, succulent mong toi greens

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
or Pam

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.

mong toi with mushrooms
stir-fried mong toi with mushrooms

Want to grow some mong toi? Check out Kitazawa Seeds 🙂


  1. Coffee said

    WOW!!!!! I am drooling over that pic!!!!! That looks like a perfect match made in heaven 😉
    Thanks Linda!!!!!

    Glad you enjoyed Coffee! Can’t go wrong when the veggies are that *green*! 😉

  2. Sri said

    Hi Linda,
    your dish looks delicious. I will definitely try this some time.

    As for amla, it is readily available in indian stores. you can try asking the grocer, it works for me!

    Other names for amla can be found here in this link->

    If you do not find amla, you can opt using amla and do not have to substitute with Kokum.

    Let me know how it turns out.

    Hi Sri, thanks for your comment and the info 🙂 I have asked in every Indian store around save one, which I need to check this week. It’s becoming something of a little obsession now… I’ll let you know how the chole turns out, with or without the elusive dried amla! 😉

  3. asha said

    Dish looks delicious and so heathy!
    Although I am not familiar with the name Mong Toi,it looks greatly like Basale greens we used to get in B’lore.I always loved that greens.I will keep my eyes peeled next time at the groceries,might get it in that name.Thanks Linda,I learn new things from you!:)

    Thanks Asha — and I learned about it from Melting Wok, so I’m happy to ‘give a little back’! 😉 The veggie is really delish. I saw it in a fairly large Asian store where they have many others… so many greens… so little time!!

  4. indosungod said

    Linda that dish looks wonderful, I have never tried pairing greens with Mushroom. This is a must try.

    Thank you ISG! Do try — mushrooms with any greens — spinach particularly, are so yummy. You’ll love it 🙂

  5. Hema said

    Hi Linda! Never heard of mong toi greens. lovely recipe with an equally beautiful photograph. Thanks!

    BTW, you may want to take a look at my latest post!

    Thank you Hema — now you’ve got me intrigued… I’ll be right over to your blog!! 🙂

  6. Lera said

    what a lovely surprise & a beautiful visual treat ! an unusual combo which looks delicious and very exotic…Linda ,thanks for sharing this idea ,which is a must try ,for this weekend…:) Have a great day ahead!

    Thank you, Lera 🙂 If you try, I hope you enjoy! You have a wonderful day too 🙂

  7. Manjula said

    I always wondered what dishes do Chinese and Asian do with this. Now I know..
    I am from Mangalore where this Malabaar Spinach/basaLe is in abundance and we have lot of Konkani dishes with this.

    Hi Manjula, the store where I bought this has lots of asian vegetables. I didn’t know what it really was until I saw it in Melting Wok’s blog. Maybe you’ll post a Konkani recipe for us?! 🙂

  8. sia said

    its my all time favourite green veg but u have not seen it in any super market here:( may be i need to check in some chinese stores… plain sambar with chinese spinach with garlic seasoning is my all time fav:) my mom and MIL have these growing in their veg garden

    Hi Supriya, I will have to try this in sambhar with garlic as you suggest — bet it’s yummy indeed! 🙂

  9. Sushma said

    I love spinach and this is a new kind of spinach. You have described it so well , I definitely want to try it.

    Thanks Sushma — do give it a try if you find it. It’s quite delish! 🙂

  10. InjiPennu said

    Great! I have been trying to get a non-Indian recipe for Malabar spinach but was scared to try. Now you blogged it and I can! Thanks for reading my mind Linda! 🙂 (but dont go, further – browse only the cooking sections ) 🙂

    Inji you always give me a smile — browse the cooking sections! 😉 Hope you like this easy dish – if you have shrimp you could make it like Shirley’s original recipe, in the link above 🙂

  11. Latha said

    Hey Linda,
    Teh mong toi looks divine! I like the picture of the leaf , it looks so fresh and green!
    Did I tell you that u are just such a sweetheart for what you did for Hema!
    Sending positive, good vibes towards you!

    You are a sweetie Latha, thanks! I was happy to help Hema 🙂 Do you wanna make sourdough too?? 😉

  12. Trupti said

    Happy V. Day!!! this spinach is new to me….looks great, my husband would love this!

    Thanks Trupti — if you try, hope you enjoy! Happy V. day to you and yours 🙂

  13. MeltingWok said

    Lindaaaaaaaa !! :)) *cheerleading here with her school gal pompoms*

    First off, the photograph of the vege, its simply beautiful, I think this is one of the few Asian vege that has thick meaty leafs, & when photographed, you can feel the “freshness” instantly from the picture.
    You paired up the spinach really well, with mushrooms, it’ll never go wrong. I tend to do my asian vege stir frys with regular mushrooms or shitake mushrooms, and they add such great flavor to the overall dish, isn’t it ?:) Next time, if you’re into more asian vege, you could try pairing this up with Asian goji berries (found in the dry food section, comes in little plastic baggie), they look like red raisins, very nutritious and goes really well with this sort of spinach.
    I am glad you did it, and it looks delicious, oo..I can “taste” the spinach-mushroom gravy over some hot bowl of rice now, yums 🙂
    Cheers !:)

    Haha, Shirley!! You make a great cheerleader, thanks! I do love shitakes as well, but didn’t have them on hand for this. I will have to look for gogi berries, thanks for that tip too 🙂

  14. sanjana said

    Good combination of spinach and mushrooms. Lovely and tempting pictures. Do share such wonderful recipes. I would like to share this Mushroom recipe, makes an interesting bake:

  15. I am a meat eater and although, those Mong Toi stir fried with mushroom and your version of sautee’ it…. looks good……:):):) to me….

  16. Mong Toi said

    Very tasty dish. The name “Mong toi” is in Vietnamese. Other countries in south east asia has different name for it in their language. So if you go to chinnese or indian store and asking for “mong toi” they probably have no idea what you are asking for. It can be just spoiled in hot water for 2-3 minutes and dipped in soy sauce. Or making soup with okra and mushroom.

  17. Donna said

    I have a friend in Florida who grows malabar spinach and it is terrific….I just ordered seeds to grow it myself here in TN. Thanks for the recipe I will gladly try it….He made it into a rice dish and I loved it…

    If you try, I hope you enjoy, Donna! 🙂

  18. […] Malabar Spinach with mushrooms: […]

  19. Mishty said

    Hi Linda, I want to try this dish but I would like to confirm if I can use rum, vodka or beer instead of wine.

    Hi Mishty,

    I have never tried this with anything other than wine — I imagine it would end up tasting like whatever spirit you use. Best wishes!

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