While living in Singapore, we became very fond a vegetable called kang kong and our favorite way to serve this was chili kang kong.

In Japan, we don’t have this vegetable so at the time, it was completely new to me.  Although  called kang kong in Singapore, it goes by various names depending on where you live.  This is what the characters look like 空心菜 and in pinyin it’s kong xin cai or in Cantonese, on-choy. By reading the Chinese characters, its literal translation is hollow heart leaf.

Since moving back to the States, I didn’t expect to find kang kong here because I thought it was a tropics vegetable.  However, I was so excited when I found kang kong in our local Chinese market, where it’s called swamp cabbage.

The long green stalk has wispy leaves that remind me of bamboo leaves. But what is unique about this vegetable is that the stalk is hollow!   Because of this characteristic, even when cooked the stalk has this little crunch, which I really like.  And unlike spinach which can be bitter, it has a fairly mild taste and easily absorbs the flavors of condiments you add.  Furthermore, the health benefits are very similar to spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, containing many minerals including calcium, potassium and iron.

The most popular way to serve kang kong in Singapore is chili kang kong, which includes garlic, dried shrimp and plenty of red chilis.  Unfortunately, as we age, the dried shrimp contains lots of sodium, which is not good for our diet and blood pressure….  But, if you have no issues with your salt intake here is a good authentic recipe from a Malaysian website MalaysianFood.net.

If you are like us, you can still enjoy a very toned down version of kang kong.  The crunch is still worth it.   If you find it in your neighborhood, why not give it a try?

Garlic Kang Kong


1 bunch kang kong/swamp cabbage, cut stalks into 3 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoon Asian chili paste
1 Tablespoon sake, rice wine


  • Wash and spin dry kang kong, then set aside.
  • Heat wok until hot
  • Add cooking oil
  • Quickly add garlic
  • Add chili paste
  • Add kang kong to wok and stir fry quickly,
  • Add sea salt and pour the tablespoon of sake around the rim of the wok
  • Don’t over cook the kang kong so you can enjoy that crunch from the hollow stem!

Photo: Pixabay

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