Vietnamese cuisine boasts many dishes that highlight fresh ingredients in a healthy manner. Rau muống xào với gừng (Vietnamese pea tendrils sautéed in ginger) is an excellent example of this. The dish is incredibly simple; the pea tendrils are blanched and then flavored with ginger and a little turmeric for color. I made it recently for my uncle who was visiting us and is a practicing Buddhist, which is why the recipe does not call for onions, shallots or garlic. Don’t worry though; the dish is only light on calories, not flavor.
As a child, our typical Vietnamese family meals were composed of individual bowls of rice, meat, seafood or tofu, a bowl of canh (a clear broth soup), a vegetable side dish and a dipping sauce. I always looked forward to a bowl of rau muống, served with a soy sauce and ginger dipping sauce called mắm gừng. If you have trouble getting your family to eat their greens, give this dish a try. It worked on me!
Servings: 6 servings
1 (3-inch) chunk fresh ginger
1-½ tablespoons canola oil
1-½ pounds rau muống (Vietnamese pea shoot tendrils)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce (or soy sauce)
2 teaspoons superfine sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 red Thai chile pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
Prepping the ginger: Clean the ginger root and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife (or the edge of a spoon). Divide the piece in thirds. Grate 2 thirds of the ginger with a fine mesh Microplane and finely minced the rest.
Prepping the pea shoot tendrils: Wash the pea shoots thoroughly in several baths. The greens tend to be very sandy, so wash them carefully. Remove and discard any older, fibrous part of the stems. Drain as much water as possible. Cut the stems into 5-inch sections.
Blanching the pea shoot tendrils: (You could skip this step but my uncle prefers it this way). Blanch the rau muống in about a quart of salted boiling water. Cook for about 1 minute. Drain and immediately transfer the greens into a cold water bath. Pat dry on towels. Remove as much liquid as possible. Season with salt.
Stir-frying the Vietnamese greens: In a wok, heat the oil. Over high heat, add the finely minced ginger and cook until it's slightly golden and fragrant. Add 1 tablespoon grated ginger and the blanched greens. Toss the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes. The pea shoots are going to wilt and become translucent. Add turmeric powder, salt and pepper. Transfer the pea shoots to a serving platter.
Making mắm gừng: In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in 1 tablespoon boiling water. Let the water cool to room temperature. Add the lime juice, vegetarian fish sauce (or soy sauce). Mix in the remaining grated ginger and finely chopped red chile pepper. Voilà!
Serve immediately with meat and/or tofu, steamed jasmine rice and of course mắm gừng on the side.
Eat with chopsticks!
Make sure to choose young, bright green rau muống leaves so they are quite tender.
Mắm gừng is the equivalent of nước chấm without garlic. You can find vegetarian fish sauce in Asian markets. Look for nước mắm chay. If you don't have any, you could replace it with soy sauce.
I only add a small amount of turmeric powder so as not to alter the flavor of the greens. It's a natural food coloring.