This umami-rich stir-fried vegetable dish of ‘red fire’ greens with yellow soybean sauce is often made with water spinach (also known as morning glory) but works very well with a wide range of seasonal green vegetables, local or Asian.
Fai daeng, which literally translates as ‘red fire’, isn’t a warning about the chilli heat level of the dish, but refers to the huge flame that leaps out of the wok as liquid hits the smoking-hot oil. Author John Chantarasak’s Kin Thai book from which this recipe is taken, suggests omitting that step at home if you want to keep your eyebrows!
You can make this dish with many different greens. Chantarasak suggests wild garlic leaves, spinach, mustard greens, watercress, turnip tops (cime di rapa), cabbage leaves, Brussels sprout tops, and asparagus. Of course, you try it with many other vegetables too.
Check out my in-depth review of Kin Thai by John Chantarasak.
‘Red Fire’ Greens with Yellow Soybean Sauce (pak kheo fai daeng)
- 2 tablespoons yellow soybean sauce
- 1½ tablespoons oyster sauce (omit for a vegetarian/vegan version)
- ½ tablespoon fish sauce (or use light soy sauce for a vegetarian/vegan version)
- ½ tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 260 g (9 oz) mixed leafy greens, such as wild garlic leaves, spinach, mustard greens, watercress, turnip tops (cime di rapa), cabbage leaves and Brussels sprout tops
- 80 g (3 oz) green asparagus, sliced at an angle into 1 cm (½ in) pieces
- 2 red bird’s eye chillies, bruised
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz/ scant ½ cup) recently boiled chicken Stock, (or use Vegetable Stock for a vegetarian/vegan version)
In a small bowl, combine the yellow soybean sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar. This is your seasoning sauce. Set aside.
In a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic and salt together to a coarse paste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, layer the vegetables from softest to hardest (i.e., start with spinach and wild garlic leaves, then turnip tops, cabbage leaves and asparagus). Top with the coarse garlic paste and the bruised bird’s eye chillies.
Heat the oil in a large wok over a high heat until the oil is shimmering and approaching smoking point. Upturn the bowl of greens into the wok so that the paste, chillies and harder greens make direct contact with the hot surface of the wok. Leave them to char for 1 minute before stirring, flipping and mixing the vegetables so they wilt with the heat of the wok.
Add the stock and seasoning sauce and bring the stock to a fast boil, then toss together one final time. Taste the liquid: it should be well-seasoned and umami-rich with a background sweetness. Serve immediately, allowing the liquid to pool in the serving dish.
Kavey Eats received a review copy of Kin Thai by John Chantarasak from publishers Hardie Grant. Book photography by Maureen M. Evans. Recipe published with permission.