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Garlic and Fish Sauce Ong Choy

Ong choy (Chinese water spinach) is one of our favorite vegetables! We stir fry with garlic and fish sauce. So bright and flavorful. Perfect with rice.

Stir fried ong choy on a plate, ready to eat.
Stir fried ong choy, ready to eat ^_^

Stir Fried Ong Choy

Have you had Stir Fried Ong Choy before? It's simple and so fresh.

All you need are 3 ingredients: ong choy (Chinese water spinach), garlic, and fish sauce.

It takes 10 minutes to prep and 5 minutes to cook. Make sure to eat it hot!

This makes an excellent vegetable side dish, or even a main dish for a simple no fuss meal.

Ingredients for stir fried ong choy (ong choy, garlic, fish sauce)
Ingredients for stir fried ong choy (fresh ong choy, garlic, and fish sauce)


The 3 ingredients for this simple recipe:

  • Fresh Ong Choy (Chinese water spinach) - You can find ong choy at most Chinese supermarkets. If you're in Honolulu, just head to one of the vegetable vendors in Chinatown to find beautiful and fresh ong choy.
  • Garlic - We used minced garlic for this recipe. I like to use one head per one bunch of ong's a lot but it's super onolicious! Feel free to use more/less garlic.
  • Fish Sauce (Nuoc Nam) - We use two main brands of fish sauce. Either will work for this recipe, both are tasty! Are you team Three Crabs or Red Boat? ^_^
Cooking stir fried ong choy in a pan. Starting with the stems and garlic.
Cook the garlic first, then add the stems.

What is Ong Choy?

In Hawaii everyone knows this vegetable by its Chinese name, Ong Choy.

On the mainland it's sometimes called "Chinese water spinach" or "hollow stem spinach" (though FYI: if you ask for "Chinese water spinach" in Hawaii no one will know what you're talking about heheh).

Ong choy on the menu of many Chinese restaurants in town, at places like Legend Seafood in Chinatown, Fook Yuen, and Jade Dynasty (one of our favorites places to eat when shopping at Ala Moana). Restaurant preparations range but it's typically a simple stir fried dish, sometimes with just garlic, and other times with chilies and preserved bean curd. It's about $13-16 an order and comes out on a big plate, meant to be eaten family-style.

At the markets, fresh ong choy is sold by the bunch. It's a green vegetable with big leaves and long, skinny stalks. You'll find it at your local Chinatown, or at any Chinese supermarket.

The best part of ong choy are the beautiful and sweet stalks/stems. The stalks are hollow (super cool!) which gives ong choy that signature crunchy texture.

Most important is to wash the stalks well. Because they're hollow, they can sometimes catch dirt. Make sure to rinse it a few times before cooking.

Cooking stir fried ong choy in a pan. Adding in the leaves.
Add the leaves next.


Ok here's how to make it!

First, separate the ong choy stems and leaves. We always cook the stems first (because they need a little more cooking time), and then add the leaves in later.

Cut and discard the bottom inch of the stems (the tougher part of the stems). Then cut the rest of the stems into 3-inch long pieces.

Wash and rinse both the stems and leaves 2-3 times until they are completely clean. Dirt or sand can get trapped in the stems of ong choy which is why I wash it multiple times. Never hurts to double wash for peace of mind.

Most ideal washing method is to soak the stems in a colanders. Let it sit and then lift the stems out into another bowl (don't pour it out, or else the dirty stuff will pour right out with the stems). Repeat! Then drain and set aside.

Second. Get a large saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add a little oil (any kind of oil, we usually use olive oil or vegetable oil) to the pan. Once the oil is warm, add the minced garlic (we love lots of garlic). Saute until lightly golden.

Third. Add the ong choy stems. Saute for a few minutes.

Fourth. Add the ong choy leaves. Saute for another minute.

Fifth. Season with the fish sauce. Saute to mix and combine. Then pour onto a plate and eat! So easy, so good ^_^

Cooking stir fried ong choy in a pan.
Last step is to season with fish sauce.

Questions and Tips

How long does this dish keep?

3-4 days in the fridge, though we usually just eat it all the day of. Best hot and fresh!

What to serve with this dish?

There are many options. First, we always eat it with a big bowl of rice.

When I'm eating alone, it's sometimes my "main" dish. Just a plate of stir fried ong choy and bowl of rice is super comforting. And you feel good and healthy afterwards.

When I'm eating with family, we usually add another dish or two (along with the rice). These dishes often include:
- Garlic and Fish Sauce Eggplant - One of my all time favorite dishes. This eggplant dish has a similar flavor profile to the ong choy dish...both are seasoned with lots of garlic and fish sauce.
- Pork Wontons With Sesame Sauce
- Braised Daikon, Pork, and Mushroom
- Chinese Sausage (Lap Cheong) and Green Beans
- Local-Style Chicken Tofu
- Yang Chow Fried Rice
- Rafute (Okinawan Shoyu Pork)
- Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp
The options are endless ^_^

Like it spicy?

Feel free to stir in chopped fresh chili peppers at the end!

Stir fried ong choy on a plate, ready to eat.
Stir fried ong choy, ready to eat!

Ong Choy Recipe

See below and enjoy ^_^

Stir fried ong choy on a plate, ready to eat.

Stir Fried Ong Choy

Yield: Side dish for 2-3
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ong choy (Chinese water spinach) is one of our favorite vegetables! Simply stir fry with garlic and fish sauce to make this super flavorful dish. It's the perfect vegetable side for dinner. Or just eat with a big bowl of rice for a simple meal.



  1. Separate the ong choy stems and leaves. Cut and discard the bottom tough/fibrous part of the stems (about 1-2 inches). Then cut the rest of the stems into 3-inch pieces. Wash and rinse 2-3 times until the stems and leaves are completely clean. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute the minced garlic with a little oil. Saute until lightly golden, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the ong choy stems, saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the ong choy leaves, saute for 1 minute more.
  5. Season with the fish sauce. Saute for another minute to combine. Pour onto a plate and eat! Ideally with rice ^_^
Mahalo for Reading!


Friday 8th of January 2021

Hi Kathy: Ong Choy is one of my favorite Chinese veggies!! Whenever I can, I always order that. But here in AZ, I cannot get it because the AZ Dept of Health has banned its sale due to fears of liver flukes in the stems. So I gotta eat it only when I go back to Honolulu, or California, or Las Vegas. There is a old school Cantonese restaurant in Las Vegas called Wo Fat whose owner used to be a cook at Wo Fat Honolulu way back when (I guess Wo Fat Honolulu never copy righted the name). I always eat Ong Choy and Gau Gees there! I love my stir fried with pork and harm har!

You know all the good dishes to cook!


Friday 8th of January 2021

Happy New Year, Alan!

Ong Choy is also one of my favorite veggies! Pair with Gau Gee and I'm happy as a clam ^_^ I recently heard that Hawaii is one of the few states that can grow ong choy...a pretty cool tidbit.

- Kathy

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