Morning Glory, also known as Water Spinach or Swamp Cabbage, is a beautiful green that also blooms bright flowers. Don’t become too excited and start picking leaves from vines, unless horticulture is a profession. Besides, the plant of familiarity that wraps around building and fences is of another family, and it’s poisonous to eat. The Morning Glory for this recipe is different, for it’s a semi-aquatic plant, in which it is also known as a leaf vegetable–such as kale, cabbage, and collards. It easily grows around waterways and in tropical regions, thus it’s known primarily as a Southeast Asian ingredient, especially in Thai dishes.
The Morning Glory is indigenous in African cuisine as well. Marcus Samuelson’s cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa, has a few recipes that look similar to Southeast Asian dishes. If we are recognizing how little is known about Asian and Mexican cuisines than imagine how far less is known about African gastronomy. Often we speak of Africa as one large culture, but it’s a place of an infinite variety of languages, geography, customs, and people. Various spices, vegetables and fruit have yet to be known in Western influenced cultures. This week, another food blogger, Lick My Spoon, wrote about her experience of eating an African-themed dinner. She mentions a spice, Melegueta Pepper, which visually resembles cardamom pods.
Writing this post, I wish to have ventured into the Asian markets to find Morning Glory. In his book, Mr. Samuelson was kind enough to suggest using Bok Choy as a substitute. The peanuts ground the dish as layers of flavors are harmonized into a culinary delight. The slight sweetness of the coconut rice supports the flavors as shredded zucchini and the sliced scallion greens provide a soft crunch. Adding shrimp transforms the recipe from a side dish to a main-course dinner that’s quick to prepare and cook. The flavors of the recipe inspire dreams of exploring spice markets around the world.
Sauteed Bok Choy, Shrimp and Peanuts over Coconut Rice
¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 to 4 scallions, divide the white and the green parts (dice the white part and slice the green part)
1 to 2 jalapeno chilies, seeds removed, finely diced
1 to 2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 lb. of small to medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 lb. bok choy, cleaned and sliced ½ inch horizontally
The juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Warm peanut oil over medium heat. Add the peanuts and sauté until golden brown.
2. Add garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 seconds.
3. Add the white part of the scallions, jalapeno chilies, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and the shrimp. Stir for 1 minute.
4. Add the bok choy and the juice of one lime. Continue cooking until the shrimp is done. An additional 2 to 3 minutes.
5. To make the garnish: Mix zucchini and the green part of the scallions together.
6. Spoon mixture over coconut rice. Serve with sesame oil, the juice of lime, salt and pepper. Garnish with zucchini and green scallion mixture.
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 cup of white basmati or jasmine rice
1-14 oz. light coconut milk, well shaken
salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a pot, heat sesame oil until hot.
2. Add rice and toss until fragrant.
3. Pour coconut milk into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
4. Cook for 15 minutes and turn off the heat. The rice will continue to cook for an additional 5 to minutes.
5. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.