Kangkung Belacan / Rau Muong Xao Mam Tom

kang kung belacan
We love the semi aqautic vegetable rau muong, otherwise known as water spinach, morning glory, ong choy (Chinese), or kang kung/kong (Indonesian/Malasian). In some US states, this is considered a “noxious weed” –not so much that it’s toxic or noxious to eat, but it can grow rapidly without much care and can be deleterious to native plants. It actually has similar nutritional benefits of spinach. In Vietnam however, this is the staple vegetable for the poor and common folk and is used in a variety of ways–most commonly stir fried with garlic and eaten as a vegetable side or stems julienned and served with noodle soups.
While we love the classic Vietnamese stir fry with garlic, we can’t get enough of the Malaysian preparation called kangkung belacan which incorporates Malaysian style fermented shrimp paste belacan as the key ingredient. Rasa Malaysia has an excellent belacan yam leaves recipe which we adapted.
This is an extremely tasty dish but close all your bedroom doors, open all your windows, and turn the vent on high and don’t wear your favorite shirt as the smell is pungent!!
kang kung belacan, rau muong, water spinach, watercress, ong choy, mam tom, fermented shrimp paste
Kangkung Belacan (Rau muong Xao Mam Tom) adapted from Rasa Malaysia
Printable Recipe
  • 1 lb rau muong washed, drained, and cut into 3-4 inch length
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs minced shallots
  • 1/2 tbs dried belecan paste (see photo above)
  • 2 red thai chili (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbs small dried shrimp (soak in warm water about 10 mins, drained–but save water)
  • 3 tbs cooking oil
kang kung belacan, rau muong, water spinach, watercress, ong choy, mam tom, fermented shrimp paste
With mortar and pestle mix shrimp and dried belacan paste together, breaking up the soften shrimp but not totally obliterating it.
Heat a large wok or pan on high, add cooking oil and when oil is hot (smokes), add garlic, shallots, belacan paste mixture. Stir for a minute or so and you will really smell the belacan becoming more fragant–add the rau muong and quickly stir fry until just wilted. Toss in the chili and add a tbs or two of the shrimp water if desired for a bit of moisture to the sauce. Do not over cook and immediately take of heat and transfer to serving platter.
kangkung belacan
Serve with jasmine rice and share with your neighbors the wondeful aroma of belacan!
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18 Responses to “Kangkung Belacan / Rau Muong Xao Mam Tom”

  1. 1

    adel — August 18, 2009 @ 6:57 am

    yummy! this is one of my favourite Malaysian dishes..packed with intense fragrance from the dried shrimps :)

  2. 2

    Dorrie — August 18, 2009 @ 10:05 am

    Hmmm, this is one of my favorite Thai dishes!

  3. 3

    Anh — August 18, 2009 @ 10:39 am

    My MIL made similar dish but with lots of chili. SO yummy!

  4. 4

    homeladychef — August 18, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    To Dorrie: It's more like a Malaysia-Singapore dish because of the belacan. Nice photo!

  5. 5

    Ravenous Couple — August 18, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

    adel: We always order kangkung belacan whenever we're at malaysian/indonesian restaurants.

    Dorrie: Almost every southeast asian country has it's own version of kangkung belacan, including thai.

    Anh: I'm sure her's is amazing. perhaps she used sambal belacan?

    homeladychef: Thank you!

  6. 6

    Gastronomer — August 18, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

    Mmm! Pass the stinky greens, please!

  7. 7

    Ravenous Couple — August 19, 2009 @ 4:20 am

    gastronomer: you mean you can smell it from all the way in pasadena? ;)

  8. 8

    Sala @ Veggie Belly — August 19, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

    Water spinach is a new ingredient to me. Thanks for sharing! I wonder if I can find it in my local Asian store..

  9. 9

    Ravenous Couple — August 20, 2009 @ 12:43 am

    Sala: most Asian groceries will have water spinach but may not label it as such. Look for it's other Asian names.

  10. 10

    Adelina — August 21, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

    Thanks for the little introduction about this dish! I really did not know this particular prepartion actually orginiated from Malaysia! This is mine and my parents' favorite dish to make on a weekday meal. We normally fight for the last bite!!!

    Your photos are gorgeous….! Thanks for the web site!!!

  11. 11

    Ravenous Couple — August 21, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

    adelina: Despite it's pungent aroma, Kangkung belacan is amazingly addictive!

  12. 12

    Rasa Malaysia — August 22, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    You have got a block of pretty authentic looking belacan there. Where did you get it? Mine is running out. ;)

  13. 13

    Ravenous Couple — August 24, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    Bee: The belacan definitely looked and smelled authentic. We got it at Saigon City Supermarket on Brookhurst in Little Saigon.

  14. 14

    Pandalicious — August 30, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    yum! ong choy with spice! i like it!

  15. 15

    Ravenous Couple — August 31, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

    pandalicious: kangkung belacan is our new favorite way to enjoy ong choy :)

  16. 16

    TeeVee — January 26, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

    Hey couple, thanks for all the great recipes! U guys are awesome. I wanted to ask about the belecan paste, do they only sell this at Malaysian market or can I find it at a viet market?

  17. 17

    TeeVee — January 26, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    Hmmm I totally didn’t read the above comments which already my answer…lol. Now where do u find that in the market? I always get so confused with new ingredients

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — January 28th, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

      hard to find belacan in the block form, we’ve only seen it in a few places, maybe try online?

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