The Rustic Style Cooking of Thailand
Unlike the morning glory found elsewhere, in Thailand, this morning glory is a vegetable and it is called Pak Bung in Thai. It is also known to all Asian cuisines as Kangkung in Malaysia and Ong Choy in Chinese. It’s scientific name is Ipomoea aquatica. You may know it as Chinese Spinach or Swamp Cabbage. I want to call it morning glory because it is a beautiful name and it belongs in the same family with its leaf and flower. I remember having morning glory in my garden here in Seattle.
Thais love to eat Pak Boong fresh, stir-fried in the famous dish “Pak Boong Fai Daeng” and often in a curry as a classic Gaeng Tapo dish. In Seattle, I often teach students the stir-fry dish. Then the other day, I walked down the aisles and saw three dried salted croaker and right away, I was just craving for this dish that my grandma used to cook during the monsoon time when fresh fish and other proteins such as meat were hard to find and morning glory were abundant. That was because it is an aquatic plant that grows on the edges of swamps canals or any damp soil. I wrote this recipe to honor both of my grandmas.
This recipe is easy to adapt. You may use pork, beef, or salted cod. I love the fact that this recipe require less coconut milk than most curry to reflect my grandma style of cooking. And it is truly delicious. I ate every drop of the curry broth.
Red Curry with Morning Glory and Salted Croaker
Gaeng Pla Tapo Pla Kem
Serves: 42 tablespoons canola oil 2 tablespoons red curry paste 1/2 cup coconut milk, divided 1 dried salted croaker, cut into a steak of 1/2 inch long, or 5 pieces salt anchovies 2 cups water 3 cups morning glory, tough stems removed and cut into 3 inches long, see note 1/2 tablespoon sugar
Heat canola oil and curry paste in a large pot on medium-high heat and stir constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons coconut milk, and let it cook for 30 seconds. Pour in water in the pot and place in croaker and let it cook for 8 minutes on medium heat. Then you may strain to remove the bone and pour back into the same pot, add the rest of coconut milk; and then bring back to a boil. Stir in morning glory and sugar and cook for only 1 minute, just to cook morning glory. Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.