Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kangkong – Never Out Of Season

Any dish using kangkong should be popular these days, as the water-loving vegetable is the only one in abundance at public markets; all other vegetables from the lowlands and the mountains have been damaged by typhoons and the habagat rains.
3 TYPES FOR ALL SEASONS – Kangkong grows almost everywhere, and this is evident in the three distinct types sold in the Philippines.
The most visible kind grows in the water, has broad leaves and crunchy pencil-wide hollow stems that keep the plant afloat during heavy rains and floods. Cooks usually utilize only the top three leaves and young stems.

The second type grows during the summer along with rice plants in the paddies. This kangkong survives the heat by creeping like other vies in search of damp or wet places. Because of its living conditions, its stems are thin and purplish only the tip and shoots are picked and cooked; the rest is fibrous and tough.
The third kind is grown commercially from seeds in large kangkong fields. Whole plants are uprooted, weighed and sold in 1-kilo bundles. Nicknamed Chinese Kangkong, it is priciest of the three types but is also the most sought-after. The whole plant, except the roots, is edible and the stems remain tender but crunchy even after blanching or stir-frying.
AFFORDABLE NUTRITION -- Kangkong is cheap and cooks fast. It is also versatile and adapts to different cooking styles, from stir-fries and soups to deep-fries and salads. You can cook kangkong with curry, coconut cream, chili, garlic, sesame oil, bagoong, peanut sauce or sambal.
Nutrition-wise, kangkong has very few calories but is one of the best and most affordable sources of vitamins and minerals, such as Calcium, Magnesium, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Zinc, Vitamins A and C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, and dietary fiber.
Keep your family healthy and save a lot of money by serving kangkong several times a week. Here are a few easy recipes to start with.
KANGKONG SALAD – Use only the stems, reserve the leaves for other purposes. Drop small batches of stems in boiling water, remove to a basin of cold water after10 seconds to retain crisp texture and green color. Add to sliced cucumber, onions and tomatoes for a Filipino salad with a vinegar-sugar-salt dressing. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.
ACHARA – Briefly boil vinegar, sugar, salt, sliced ginger and chili peppers. Cool. Blanch and cool kangkong stems; drain. Fill clean jars with kangkong, add pickling solution. Refrigerate for at least a day before serving. Consume within 3 days. Possible additions: sliced garlic and onions, carrots and blanched long peppers.
STIR-FRIED KANGKONG – On high heat, stir-fry minced garlic, sliced onions and crushed ginger until limp. Add kangkong stems and mix until vegetables turn dark green. Pour in desired amount of oyster sauce. Do not add water as the kangkong’s own moisture will thin the sauce. Serve immediately with a light sprinkle of sesame oil.
Possible additions to vary the dish: julienned carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, green onions, sliced zucchini.
GINATAANG KUHOL – Clean the rice paddy snails well and punch a hole in each tail end. Simmer the coconut milk from the second pressing with ginger, garlic and onions; add snails and boil until the snail meat is tender. Stir in long green chili peppers and bagoong alamang to taste. Simmer again until gravy is thick.
Add kangkong stems and leaves with the pure coconut milk. Use a lot of kangkong as they reduce in volume after cooking. Stir lightly until the whole thing boils, but do not cover lest the coco milk boil over. Serve immediately with wooden toothpicks to take the meat out of the shells.
Note: for better-tasting snails, keep them in a lightly-covered pail for 2 days, all the time feeding them with bread crumbs soaked in water. This will clean their system and flush out any impurities in their system.
CRISPY KANGKONG LEAVES – Use large whole leaves with an inch of stem attached. Dust the leaves with corn starch, dip in a flour-and-water batter, and immediately drop into hot oil. Take out of the oil when the tiny bubbles around the leaves disappear. Serve immediately with a chili, blue cheese, ranch or thousand island dressing.
BINAGOONGANG LECHON – Saute garlic, onions, ginger and tomatoes until limp. Add bagoong alamang and stir until cooked through. Stir in ½ cup water with 1 tsp corn starch dissolved. When thickened, slide in the leftover lechon, lechon kawali or crispy pata and simmer until heated through. Last to be added would be kangkong stems, stirred in vigorously until cooked but still crisp. Possible additions: sliced green and red peppers.
PINANGAT NA ULO NG ISDA – Saute garlic, onion, ginger and tomatoes until cooked. Add a cup of broth (or water with broth cube) and boil. Add mashed paasim (boiled tamarind, kamias or green mango). Stir in fish heads which could be whole if small enough, or cut to chunks if too big. Simmer, covered, until fish is almost done. Add kangkong stems and leaves and long green chili peppers. Cover and cook until fully done. Serve with sauteed bagoong.


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