During our trip to the Minneapolis Farmers Market a few weeks ago, I picked up what was labeled ‘spinach.’ I was wise enough to know that this was not the variety found in grocery stores around the United States. I believe I picked up a large bag for $1…plenty for 3 dishes, even with the wilting factor.
Having never used or seen this leaf, I decided to go for it and figure the greens out when I got home. I thought I captured this plant in a picture but I don’t know where it went. Dur! Google it if you’re curious.
After some research, I discovered that this was Malabar spinach. I don’t know how closely related it is to the spinach I know but in my opinion, they can be interchanged in recipes. It has a mild taste and is a tropical leaf vegetable used in Asian cuisine. It can be found, so I’m told, in Asian markets and farmers markets throughout the states.
If you’re looking to expand your leafy green knowledge, I recommend using this in place of any spinach or dish in need of wilted greens. As my sis-in-law says, Asian markets can be more economical to shop and thus, you can obtain Malabar spinach cheaper than a bag of baby spinach from the chain store (and co-ops) and some of you might be expanding your food horizons. Win-win.
A stir-fry stirred my interest (from Lowfat Lifestyle), one with heat from a chopped Thai chili, another market find. However, the recipe I used called for Asian (Thai) basil or holy basil which I know from past culinary adventures has a dominant flavor unlike Malabar spinach. I used the spinach anyway and was not disappointed.
You can follow the recipe exactly with the basil (if you wish)-read about Thai basil here– or use the Malabar spinach from the Asian market. Place the mix over noodles or rice and your meal is complete. Greg and I are picky about our stir-fry sauces and this one was one of the best we’ve ever had. The combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, broth, garlic, Thai chili (or Serrano) was right on paired with the chicken and spinach.
Asian Spinach/Basil Chicken Stir-Fry
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, thawed slightly
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small fresh Thai chili (or Serrano pepper), cut in slices (wash your hands after)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tsp fish sauce (naam pla)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
fresh black pepper
1 ½ cups Malabar spinach, holy basil or Asian (Thai) basil, washed and patted dry
2 to 3 cups steamed rice or cooked noodles
Heat a wok or skillet over med-high heat, add the oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Cut the chicken into thin strips and set aside. To the hot oil, carefully add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the chicken, stirring constantly, until chicken is opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sliced chili, broth, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce and pepper, stir to combine. Add the spinach or basil and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, until wilted. Serve with rice or noodles.