Yesterday I realized we were almost out of nuoc mam – that super-fantastic fish sauce concoction that makes just about everything better. I use it regularly, not just for making a tasty dipping sauce with some garlic and hot chilies and lime juice, but also in soup, in braises, and in all kinds of sauces.
Vietnamese fish sauce, like many fermented foods, is a source of a taste known as umami, that savory flavour which, combined with a great variety of foods, enhances their best qualities.
I trundled off to Grant’s market, a great Asian specialty store, to re-up. While there, I also bought some frozen squid, a package of Vietnamese fish balls, some fried tofu, and then headed to the produce section, where I saw a vegetable I hadn’t seen since we were in Vietnam – morning glory. I love this stuff!
I recognized it right away – long hollow stocks with long, narrow leaves. It was being marketed as ton choi, but Mr. Google quickly confirmed this veggie is known by several names, including tong choi, ong choi, water spinach, Chinese watercress, rau, or course morning glory.
The first time we ate morning glory was in Hoi An, in Vietnam. It was stir-fired with lots of garlic, and it must have been cooked with a wok on an open fire, as it had a kind of wood-smokiness about it. Later on our vacation we had a similar dish in Can Tho, in the Mekong Delta – it was very good too, but not as good as the dish we enjoyed in Hoi An, which was perfect.