Fish sauce became one of my staple seasonings couple years ago. It adds so much more flavor to Asian dishes ranging from stir fry veggies to soup noodles. As for the shrimp paste, I had it quite often when dining at South East Asia style restaurants, but never had a chance to actually use it myself.
I finally bought a jar of shrimp paste from a local 99 Ranch market earlier, but it was intended for a stir fry banh pho (rice noodles) instead of this recipe. Stir fry ongchoy with shrimp paste is such a popular dish among Asians. So I figured might as well give it a try with the vegetable first instead of a big portion of rice noodles. If anything goes wrong, as least the damage is tolerable. Luckily, my ongchoy turned out just the way I wanted it to be!
Stir fry ongchoy with shrimp paste and fish sauce -
1 big bundle of ongchoy
6 garlic cloves
6 fresh red chilies
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of shrimp paste
1 teaspoon of fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 small pinch of sea salt
Ongchoy, we called it 空心菜 in Chinese. The direct translation would be "hollow center greens." If you ever feel lost in an Asian market with all the exotic looking vegetables on the shelves, just look for hollow stems and you'll have the correct item on hand.
Thoroughly rinse and soak the vegetable before usage. Once done, drain well and chop off the very end stem, about 1 inch. Chop the remaining greens about 2 inches in length.
Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Remove the stems from the chilies and chop into smaller pieces.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and turn to medium heat. Add in garlic slices, chilies, and a small pinch of sea salt. Cook till the garlicky aroma comes out but not burned. You might need to lower the heat a little bit to prevent burning. Try to cook till the edges of the garlic slices turned slightly brown.
Turn to high heat and add in the ongchoy immediately. Give it a quick stir first so the garlic slices won't stuck on the bottom and get burned. Add in the shrimp paste, fish sauce, and a little bit of soy sauce. Mix well and cook till the vegetable begins to wilt. Cook a little bit longer so that the seasoning can soak into the greens. Generally speaking, the hollow stems should remain slightly crunchy once done.
I think shrimp paste will be one of my staple seasonings in the pantry from now on.