Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
Believe it or not, we do more than just strip carcasses and suck skulls here at Shanghaiist Food. Once in a blue moon we get in touch with our herbivorous side, and when we do, we often go for water spinach, called ong choy (蕹菜) in Cantonese, kōngxīncài (空心菜) in Mandarin.
Not actually related to spinach, water spinach populates Southeast Asian swamps but can also be grown on dry land. Many Shanghai spots carry ong choy, many also cook it sloppily with too much cheap oil and for too long, rendering it a wilted, sopping, grease-mop. The clay pot version with shrimp paste (28RMB) at homestyle Cantonese eatery, Yi Sheng Yue Wei, shows the rest how it’s done.
They cook their ong choy so it’s crunchy but not bite-resistantly so, and not so long that it loses it’s natural forest-fresh essence. The shrimp paste and oil are the savory/fatty glue that holds it together. Just be sure to thoroughly coat the greens with them before biting in, as they pool at the bottom of the vessel, and prepare to graze on one of the better greens on in Shanghai. I doubt parents who know how to whip this dish up complain that their kids won’t eat their veggies.
Yi Sheng Yue Wei – 132 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Lu (永康路132号, 近襄阳路). Tel: (0)21-6473-5602. Hours: Hours: 11am-12:30am.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Willow leaf dumplings with peanut sauce @ Shaxian Xiaochi
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!