Stir Fried Water Spinach

An essential dish, both in homestyle cooking and at restaurants. Pak Boong is a very common vegetable in Thailand, as well as other South East Asian countries. To cook something “Fai Daeng” means over a really hot fire. Fai means fire, and Daeng means red, so your heat must be all the way up!



  1. Lightly smash the chilies. Smash the garlic and remove the skin. Set aside. Wash the water spinach and shake it dry. Prepare the vegetable by breaking off the leaves at the base, and then breaking the stems with your hands at about 1.5″ intervals. Leave the top last part of stem intact with the top 2 leaves on. See picture to the right for an example.
  2. Heat your wok to HIGH HIGH HIGH. If your pan is not hot, the vegetables will die a slow death and taste terrible. If you’re using an electric stove, leave the stove on high for about 3-5 minutes with the pan full of oil sitting on top. This should get it as hot as it’s supposed to be. You want almost smoking oil, where the oil is dancing around in the pan.
  3. Throw the garlic in, stir quickly until it just starts to turn light brown. If your pan is hot enough, this should be less than 10 seconds. Then throw the vegetable in with the chilies. It should sizzle like crazy. Flip the vegetables and spread out a few times to make sure they evenly cook. Then add the water, bean sauce & oyster sauce, and stir for maybe 1 more minute, until the vegetable is finished. They’re done when the leaves are dark green and wilted and the stem is medium green. Don’t overcook, or they’ll taste bad.


This dish is very easy to make vegetarian by using vegetarian oyster sauce instead of regular oyster sauce. There are a few different brands of vegetarian oyster sauce, made from mushrooms instead of oysters. Sometimes the label says 'vegetarian stir fry sauce'.


Pak Boong

Sometimes called Morning Glory

Prepare the Vegetable

Snap the vegetable as shown

14 thoughts on “Stir Fried Water Spinach

  1. Lizz –
    Actually, the origin of this recipe is Chinese. I believe the Chinese brought it both to Thailand and Cambodia. And I don’t think that Cambodians add chilies when they cook it.

  2. I love water spinach, I can eat this stuff all day. I concur with cee that this actually originated from China. There’s a great chinese version where instead of bean and oyster sauce, you can use those salty fermented bean curds.

  3. well.. for the sake of knowledge

    usually here in Thailand, the chef will heat the wok (with oil) enough so that when he throw in the Pak Boong along with some water (or broth), the FLAME will erupt from the wok!!

    Sceintifically, with enough IMIDIATE heat, molecule of water will dispatch (sorry, it seems my english is not good enough to find the proper term) into OXYGEN and HYDROGEN. With Hydrogen as the fuel and Oxygen as the oxidant (again, forgive my poor english) and the flame will blow up from the wok!!

    It’s quite a show. Actually it’s a show!! There are restaurants that do this as a customer entertainment, as well as vague number of street foods stall.

    Hence, the name RED FLAME(FIRE) is occupied.

    1. Actually the flames are from the cooking oil catching fire.

      Very hot oil will often catch fire after water or wet ingredients are added, and this is an important element in wok cooking.

      The reason why oil can catch fire after you add water to a very hot pan is because the oil is much hotter than the boiling point of water. The water you add is immediately turned to steam as it is added, and expands rapidly out of the pan. But since oil and water do not mix, a thin layer of oil will have formed around the water. As the water evaporates rapidly the layer of oil is stretched out and carried up along with the steam. If the pan is hot enough, this layer of oil catches fire and appears to “explode” out of the pan in flames. (This is exactly why you should never try to use water to put out an oil-based fire.)

      Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by thermolysis, but not at the temperatures in any wok, even the insanely hot ones at a night market! Professional red-wok cooking like you get at an outdoor market (what Chinese chefs call bao) can be as hot as 650C (1200F) – very hot indeed, but nothing at all to water. Water breaks down only over 2,000C. In fact steel melts at around 1,500C, so your wok itself would melt long before the steam in it broke down into hydrogen and oxygen.

    1. This can be made with almost any leafy spinach like green. Regular spinach, snow pea leaves, etc. I can’t always find water spinach so I improvise.

  4. This is a great dish, I really can smell the oil now heating up while I’m wrtiting up, ammm very yummy dish, we cook it very often, and just loved it

  5. This sauce can literally be used with almost all vegetable stirfries. Try it with asparagus, mushrooms & Chinese brocholi, or my favorite….cauliflower!!! Give it a try.

  6. What a great and easy recipe! I just made a batch using 5 Korean peppers (I didn’t have any Thai peppers)it came out very tasty. Can’t wait to try it with Thai peppers. Thanks for posting your recipe!!

  7. I so fell in love with dish Pak Boong (Morning Glory) while in Indonesia but find it hard to buy over here

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