Adobong kang kong is such a staple in our home that when I checked my archives and realized I had never done a post on it, I was really rather surprised. We eat it so often that it passed below my normally attentive radar screen. As a kid, my folks were bizarre about some things and kang kong was one of them. My dad led one of the countryâ€™s largest efforts to get the average citizen to start and maintain backyard vegetable gardens to improve their nutritional intake in the 1970â€™s and he was a true advocate of healthy local fruits and vegetables. However, both he and my mom held this belief that since kang kong grew in swampy, watery areas, that meant the chances that they were exposed to raw fecal matter which they â€œsucked upâ€ their hollow stems and lay in wait to make some unsuspecting diner totally sick was extremely high! Ergo, we didnâ€™t eat much kang kong until we started a 1,000 square meter vegetable garden beside our home in Manila, and grew it ourselves. Not a big fan of greens in my teens, I was only re-introduced to this vegetable in a big way when I moved to Singapore and Indonesia for work in the early 1990â€™s.
Kang kong (Ipomoea aquatica or reptans) has two main varieties, one with larger leaves and stems and one with narrower leaves and stemsâ€¦the latter sometimes referred to in local markets as â€œChinese Kang kong.â€ Also known as â€œwater spinachâ€ â€“ why, one wonders as it is not related to â€œspinachâ€ but rather more closely related to sweet potatoesâ€¦ A native to tropical India, it has spread to Southeast Asia where it thrives and has become a cheap and nutritious part of the diet. I got used to eating kang kong frequently in Singapore and Indonesia (where it is stirfried with chillis!) and when we moved back to the Philippines I have eaten it at least once a week if not more often. To make adobong kang kong in our house, we simple prep the leaves, heat up a large pan, add some oil some whole garlic cloves, the kang kong and some soy sauce and vinegar and pepper. Alternatively, the cook uses patis (fish sauce). Chop up a red pepper or two if you want some spice. Yum. I have noticed that restaurant versions are often much more soupy and more “adobo-ey” than our home version but regardless of slight variations on a theme, it is delicious. I love the crunch of the stems and the mouthfeel of the leaves. A house favorite and judging by the comments on my Pinoy Top 10 Foods post, lots of readers feel the same way!