If you want to know which side dish Chinese people feature regularly at their dinner table, then you’ll find your answer right here. Stir Fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd is a vibrant and exceptionally delightful family favourite that I could eat EVERY SINGLE DAY.
There’s just something so innately magical about stir frying that elevates your plain ol’ veggies from simply average to seriously amazing. Stir Fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd is one of those dishes where there are NEVER any leftovers after we’re done with it!
What is water spinach?
Pronounced ‘ong choy’ in Cantonese, water spinach is a tropical plant with delicate leaves and shoots which can be found growing in water or in damp soil. When you bite into it, its flavour is fairly mild, making it a popular choice for stir fries.
Water spinach is firm yet still tender because the shoot is hollow inside. The most amazing part is that it will retain its crunch if cooked using the right temperatures!
Not only will you get an incredible textural experience, but the leaves are an optimal soaking tool and act as a flavour sponge, ensuring that each bite will contain the essence of the dish’s sauce!
Did you say FERMENTED bean curd?
If you go into a Chinese pantry, you’ll likely find a jar of fermented bean curd (腐乳) tucked safely away like a hidden gem. It’s one of those quick and easy condiments that will go with SO many things! Fermented bean curd also goes by the name ‘fermented tofu’ but the ones that hold the dearest places in our hearts are the red fermented bean curd (红腐乳) and the white fermented bean curd (白腐乳). For this Stir Fried Water Spinach and Fermented Bean Curd recipe, we’ll be using the white version.
Fermented bean curd is made by preserving tofu in different seasonings and liquids such as salt, chilli, rice wine and sesame oil. This results in a smooth cheese-like cube that has a similar pungent punch as some cheeses. If you want to an experience close to home, you can’t skip on this well-loved ingredient!
Why I LOVE this stir fry duo
Think of water spinach as an empty canvas. It offers a great mouthfeel (that inherent vegetable crunch) and the ability to absorb ALL the aromas of the wok. Why wouldn’t you pair it with a robust ingredient that will make the leaves sing in all its glory?
Plus, this is probably one of the easiest stir fries to whip up! Let’s go!
What you'll need for this quick stir fry
- 3 bundles water spinach (we get ours from the local Asian supermarket)
- 3 cubes fermented white bean curd
- 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 3/4 tbsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 chopped chilli (optional)
How to make this stir fry come to life
Begin by dividing the water spinach into smaller sections. I usually go for lengths of about 5cm or 2″ long. Grandma also likes to rip the tips of the leaves off so that the softest parts remain.
Wash and dry the water spinach. We use our trusty colander for the drip drying process.
Mash the fermented bean curd with some of the liquid from the jar until it becomes a paste. It may be a little smelly at this point, but trust me, you’ll find a slice of our home in this dish!
Heat up the oil in a wok or pan then add the garlic and chilli in.
Over a high heat, add the water spinach and continuously stir fry.
When the water spinach has slightly softened, add the fermented bean curd paste and chicken bouillon powder.
Give it a few quick tosses until the flavours have mixed in well then immediately transfer onto a serving dish. The longer you cook it for, the softer it will get. We love our water spinach flavourful and crunchy so we take it out as soon as it’s done!
Make sure to enjoy this simple and easy dish with a bowl of rice!
Stir Fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd (炒腐乳空心菜)
- 3 bundle water spinach (we get ours from the local Asian supermarket)
- 3 cube white fermented bean curd (plus 2 tsp liquid from the jar; or to taste)
- 2 clove garlic (finely chopped)
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 3/4 tbsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 chili (chopped; optional)
- Divide the vegetable into smaller sections, roughly 5cm or 2" long. Rip the tips of the leaves off so that the softest parts remain.
- Then wash and dry the greens and use a colander for the drip drying process. You can find a guide on how to wash herbs and leafy vegetables here.
- Mash the fermented tofu until it becomes a paste.
- Heat a pan or wok up on high and when hot, pour the oil in. Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic and chili in. Stir for 30 seconds.
- Turn the heat back up to high and add the water spinach in.
- Season the greens with the fermented paste and chicken bouillon powder, then stir for 3 minutes or until well combined and just cooked.
- Transfer onto a dish and serve hot with rice!
- Use young and fresh vegetables. Grandma always opts for the younger variety because it’s not as tough. To test their age, use a nail and pierce through the stem when grocery shopping. If it’s tough, it won’t break through easily.
- Keep the heat high. As with any stir fry, you MUST have the wok at its hottest setting to prevent the greens from boiling at a lower temperature.
- Avoid overcooking. Keep an eye on the greens and take them out as soon as they’re cooked. This will help to retain their crunch.
- Cook in smaller batches. Unless you have a commercial-grade gas cooktop that can produce very high heat, divide the vegetables into 2-3 lots when cooking to maximise their texture.
- You can find fermented bean curd in Asian supermarkets. They’re often stored in glass jars with the lid sealed using plastic to keep the robust aromas locked inside.
SHARE YOUR CREATION!
If you recreated this authentic recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag @wokandkin on Instagram with the hashtag #wokandkin! See you there!
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I’ll be sharing recipes that will give you front row access to authentic Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines. Find out about how I discovered my love for cooking and who inspired it all here!
Asian recipes are so inspiring. I love the colors, the flavors. I have never heard of white bean curd before, but I am googling it now.
I love Asian food as well! I hope you also end up buying some to try!
Danielle Wolter says
I am a huge fan of anything fermented. This spinach sounds so incredible with the fermented bean curd. I just happen to be heading to the Asian grocery store today and will definitely pick up a jar of this!
Fermented bean curd and kimchi are my weaknesses! Hopefully you found some!
Lauren Vavala | Delicious Little Bites says
This is such a beautiful dish! I’ve definitely never had anything quite like this and am hoping I can find the ingredients soon – thanks for sharing such a unique recipe!
Thanks, Lauren! You should be able to easily find them at the Asian supermarket!
Lisa | Garlic & Zest says
Jeanette, I’ve been wanting to get into more Asian and Vietnamese cooking and this looks like a great jumping off point. I’ve never heard of fermented bean curd, which in and of itself “sounds scary” but your description made me think, “hmmm, I’d eat that!” Our farmer’s market is opening this weekend and I’ll be on the lookout for this special spinach. Would the sauce work with other vegetables too, do you think?
I’m so glad you’re willing to give the fermented bean curd a try! I imagine it would sound scary but it’s definitely worth a taste! The sauce will certainly work with other vegetables, especially the leafy greens 🙂
This sounds perfectly flavorful! I can see why it’s such a popular dish.
Kelly Anthony says
I’ve never had water spinach or fermented white bean curd but I love trying new foods. This looks like the perfect side dish full of flavor and vegetables.
I hope you do try it one day! It’s a winner!
How much fermented curd does it require? Thank you!!
Hi, MJ! You’re looking at about 3 cubes, or to taste 😀
Enjoyed it immensely even though I didn’t add chilli. I added about 2.5 cubes
That’s wonderful to hear, Chad!
Can you give an approximately weight for your water spinach? I just bought one bunch that weighed 2.5 lbs. Three bunches would be 7.5 pounds. Is that correct???
Hi, Jazz! That sounds about right from here. Our bunches are quite large like that too!