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It’s kangkong’s turn to shine

Featured image- Kangkong


By Sol Vanzi

In the 1970s, foodies regularly flocked to the National Press Club’s (NPC) third-floor restaurant and the Manila International Airport (MIA) eatery owned by former Manila Bulletin newsman Louie Perez to have their fill of dishes that featured the ordinary, much-maligned kangkong.

Self-taught NPC kusineros developed the dish lechon kawali with kangkong and bagoong in the early ’60s and made the NPC restaurant and bar popular not just for after-deadline drinking sprees of journalists. Legislators and top officials also went there for good, no-nonsense lunch and dinner.

At the MIA, meanwhile, what started as a canvas-roofed carinderia grew to become an air-conditioned bistro, thanks to the popularity of Ginataang Kuhol at Kangkong prepared by Louie’s wife Ampy. The Perez secret family recipe was thick with pure coconut cream, seasoned with bagoong alamang, and spiked with siling labuyo.

Kangkong or ipomoea aquatica is a leafy vegetable that is rich in vitamins and minerals, yet is taken for granted because it is so ordinary, inexpensive, and abundant all year round. This attitude toward kangkong is also prevalent among Indonesians, who consider it a taboo to serve kangkong to honored guests. Dishes in which the vegetable is commonly used, like gado-gado, are made with bayam instead. Bayam is another type of spinach and considered to be classier.

Try these simple kangkong recipes

Adobong kangkong is the most popular, yet cheapest dish in the Philippines. Cut kangkong into two-inch lengths and stir-fry in hot oil with crushed garlic. Then, season with vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, and bay leaf. Cook until leaves and stems turn dark green.

Gising-gising uses only kangkong stems stripped of leaves. Slice stems to one-centimeter length. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, then sauté onions, garlic, ginger, and bagoong. Add ground pork and cook until slightly brown. Afterward, add coconut milk and coconut cream, then allow to simmer for about two to three minutes. Add sliced chilis and kangkong stems, then cover to simmer for another three minutes. To thicken the sauce, simmer uncovered until desired consistency is reached.

Acharang kangkong uses only stems, which are cut one to two inches long. Blanch cut stems in boiling water and refresh with cold water. Prepare pickling marinade by mixing vinegar, sugar, and salt to desired taste. Simmer and stir to dissolve solids. Afterward, cool and pour into jars filled with blanched kangkong. Chili peppers may be added. May be served after two days of ripening in the refrigerator.

Trivia on kangkong

Kangkong is also called by many names like water spinach, river spinach, water morning glory, water convolvulus, Chinese spinach, and swamp cabbage. In the Philippines, two types are sold in the markets—the Chinese kangkong grown from seeds, and the ordinary kangkong grown from cuttings floating in water.

Chinese kangkong, with the roots intact, is sold by the kilo and has long, slender leaves and tender stalks. On the other hand, ordinary kangkong is sold by the bundle and has thicker stalks and wider, greener leaves.

Kangkong- for body

Because kangkong grows rapidly through waterways, it forms floating mats that can block water flow and the passage of watercraft. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has categorized kangkong as a noxious weed and has included it in the list of prohibited aquatic plants.

Kangkong has also become an established weed in several southern states in the US. It is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed under the Plant Protection Act, which makes it illegal in the US to import or transport kangkong between states without a permit from the USDA.

Kangkong’s curative powers

Kangkong buds are used as poultice to treat skin diseases such as ringworm, athlete’s foot, etc. It is used to induce vomiting in poisoning cases. Juice from boiled kangkong is used to ease constipation. Its juice mixed with water is used as a cold compress to treat fever. Kangkong is also used to treat intestinal worm infestation. In Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, the plant is used to treat jaundice and liver problems. It is considered safe even for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, that it is used to treat diabetes during pregnancy. Kangkong, used as a sedative, promotes relaxation and sleep.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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