Pak Boong Fai Dang
When I was a little girl, I was a "meat-etariean", totally vegetable-free. When ever I saw some greens on my plate I would pick them out. I felt that fried chicken, beef or eggs was way tastier than vegetable. Aunt and mom were tired of me making a long face over my plate every times there were some tiny pieces of vegetable snugged under the rice.
My eating habit started to change when I went to the university. I was 1600 km. away from my family, living by myself - no body told me what to eat, what not to eat. My most influence during that times was friends. They all love to eat. They were always dragging me with them to try some now dishes they'd heard from somewhere else which, of course, involved with a lot of vegetable dishes, I went along and the next thing I knew, I enjoy eating vegetable more and more.
This dish is one of my favorite vegetable dishes. It's called Pak Boong Fai Dang, which is easily translated to Red Flame Water Spinach - Fai = Fire, Dang = Red. It gets the name from the way it's cooked. I love watching the cooking of this dish especially when we go out to a long line of street food stalls at night market where you can see foods are prepared and cooked in front of you. It is quite a show, if I can say.
A wok is heated till it's very hot - sometimes until the smoke starts to come up then Pak Boong is thrown into the wok, stirred and tossed, right away as they touch the wok, in a speed of moving hurricane. Now, Don't blink!...You are about to see the flame shooting into the wok and up to the air in a split second. How big the flame is depends on technique of each cook. It gives the dish a little smoky touch to your nose and preserves the crunchiness of vegetable. I never get to try this technique of bring the flame into the wok or into my kitchen and I don't think I will. My husband is a graphic designer not a hunk fire-fighter. I don't think he would like to deal with Fai-Dang kitchen.
Here is my non-Fai-Dang technique.
I got this technique from my best friend, Kung, who own the restaurant on Koh Panagn, a beautiful island in Aow Thai sea. She cooked this dish for my husband and I when we visited her and her family there.
After Pak Boong are rinsed and shaken off the water, she put them in a preparing bowl, followed with oyster sauce, bruised fresh chillies and a pinch of sugar - you can omit the sugar if you want to. The next thing is preparing the wok - heat it up with little oil till you can see a bit of smoke start to come up, throw in crushed garlics and all ingredients from the preparing bowl, and, again, stir and toss, right away as they hit the wok, in a speed of moving hurricane.....and turn the heat off.
You still get the crunchiness - the only thing you'll miss is a smoky touch, but, well...since I don't want to burn my bang, I rather cook this dish with non-Fai Dang technique. If I want a smoky taste, I'll go out to food stalls and enjoy their show and food.