Editor's note: January is Vegetable Month on Serious Eats: New York! Every day this month we'll introduce you to a different vegetable dish we love. Do you have a veg dish to nominate? Let us know!
A common complaint about the food of another nation, when cooked in America, is that it's not gutsy enough. Not as spicy or fish-sauce-y or buttery or Sichuan peppercorn-ed or smoky or sour as in its home country. Luckily, that's not a malady that afflicts the Wok-Fried Kangkong ($12) at Fatty Crab. Kangkong—also known as water convolvulus, also known as water spinach, but come on, isn't that first name the best?—is a green you'll see in East and Southeast Asia, and it's very popular in Malaysia, whence chef Zak Pelaccio draws much of his inspiration. There, as here, it's wok'd up with sambal belacan, a pounded paste of lime, chili, and fermented shrimp paste; Fatty Crab finishes with a splash of rice wine shaoxing.
The resulting greens are powerfully funky and genuinely spicy, enough to leave a burning on the tongue even after a few gulps of water (which is fine with us). They don't skimp on the belacan, which I love. And kangkong are some of my favorite greens to eat (not to mention say the name of). They're long and almost noodle-like, fun to twirl up with chopsticks, even if they get a little messy. It's just part of the fun.