Spinach is known as “Persian cabbage” in China. This dark green vegetable is full of iron and therefore highly regarded for its nutritious value. The slight acid taste in your mouth when eating spinach (caused by potassium oxalate) can be somewhat reduced if you cook it in the following manner.
1 lb (450 g) fresh spinach
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
a few drops sesame seed oil
If you live near an Oriental food store you may be able to buy small fresh spinach done up in bundles (I have often come across them in Berwick Street market in London); these are much tastier than the large, pale green leaves. Wash the spinach well and shake off as much excess water as possible. If using the smaller type, keep the red rootas it adds colour as well as flavour.
Heat up the wok or a large saucepan (no ordinary frying pan is big enough to hold all the raw spinach leaves), pour in at least 3 tablespoons of oil, swirl it around until it covers almost the entire pan, and heat it until it smokes. Stir-fry the spinach for about ½ minute, add salt and sugar, mixing well, followed by the soy sauce.
This is really the basic method of cooking all types of fresh vegetables in China. Of course the soy sauce can be omitted or be substituted by additional salt – some people would use monosodium glutamate, but I do not recommend it.
Another popular way of serving spinach is to combine it with 2-3 scrambled eggs. Cook the eggs first, then add them to the spinach at the last stage. If you garnish this dish with a few slices of cooked ham, then it becomes really colourful as well as having an even better flavour.
Now if you serve this dish with some boiling water, it becomes an instant soup.
© Deh-Ta Hsiung and reproduced with his kind permission.