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Kangkong leaves are medium to large in size and lanceolate or arrowhead-shaped, averaging 10-20 in length and 2-8 centimeters in diameter. The smooth, long green leaves grow in an alternate pattern and form on hollow stems that can grow up to 2 to 3 meters in length. These stems, or vines, are commonly found in aquatic locations and can float on the water and hold the leaves above the water line. Kangkong leaves are tender, and the stems are crunchy, offering a slippery texture when cooked and a mild, sweet, and nutty green flavor.
Kangkong leaves are available year-round.
Kangkong leaves, botanically classified as Ipomoea aquatica, grow on an herbaceous, trailing vine that is found in humid, tropical lowlands and belongs to the Convolvulaceae, or morning glory family. Also known as Kangkung, Kankun, Chinese spinach, Water spinach, River spinach, and Swamp cabbage, Kangkong leaves are a popular leaf vegetable prized for its crunchy stems and tender leaves and can be found in most Southeast Asian cuisines.
Kangkong leaves are a good source of iron and calcium and also contains magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, vitamins C and K, and zinc.
Kangkong leaves can be consumed raw or in cooked applications such as steaming, boiling, or stir-frying. Young shoots can be made into a salad and served with green papaya, but the fragile leaves need to be washed thoroughly before use. Kangkong leaves are commonly stir-fried in oil and served as a side dish or combined with other vegetables and meats to make a complete meal. They can also be used in curries, soups, and coated in a batter and fried to make a crispy appetizer. Kankong leaves pair well with aromatics such as ginger, garlic, and onions, chili peppers, bay leaves, nam phrik, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, peanut sauces, cuttlefish, and meats such as chicken, pork, and beef. They are highly perishable when fresh and will keep up to 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
Kangkong is a humble vegetable that commonly accompanies meat and rice dishes in Asia and is often ordered as an afterthought. In the Philippines, kangkong adobo is a traditional recipe that incorporates coconut milk, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and bay leaves to make an adobo sauce to mix into the sautéed Kangkong. Kangkong is valued for its nutritional content, and because it grows easily and is available year-round in Asia, it is a well-known and loved side dish in Southeast Asia.
Kangkong leaves are believed to be native to India and Southeast Asia. The earliest instance of Kangkong is said to date back to the Chin Dynasty in China in 304 CE. The fast-growing, easily propagated species was spread by Asian immigrants moving from their home areas to other parts of the world for work and has spread to Africa and South and Central America. Kangkong was brought to the United States in the 1970s, and although it never took off as a popular vegetable, it grew so voraciously that it is considered locally and federally to be a noxious weed in certain states. Today Kangkong leaves are available in fresh markets and specialty grocers in Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas, and Africa.
Recipes that include Kangkong Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.