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phak bung (ผักบุ้ง)

Thai for water spinach, a vine-like plant (fig.) that grows plentifully in usually shallow, standing water, such as ponds, ditches and roadside canals. Its botanical name is Water convolvulus and it belongs to the genus Ipomoea. In English it is also known as morning glory and swamp cabbage, and in Thai as phak bung farang and phak thod yod (peak fried vegetable), when stir fried in a wok. As a vegetable, it is high in vitamin A and iron, and is prepared with vegetable oil or bacon fat, black bean sauce and mashed garlic cloves. If also sliced chilies are added the dish becomes known as phak bung fai daeng (red fire water spinach). The dish is spectacularly prepared in no time over a high gas flame by stir frying a handful of water spinach in a wok that regularly catches fire because of oil splashing over its side, creating huge flames (fig.). It is said that by licking the inside of the wok the flames actually add a smoking flavour to the dish. The food is popular at many night markets nationwide, where it is sometimes alternatively served as phak bung loi fah (sky-floating water spinach), in English known by the name morning glory flying vegetable: after having prepared a batch of water spinach (fig.), the cook swings his wok by one handle tossing the water spinach across the market, where it is caught on a plate by a waiting server, adding extra drama to the already spectacular performance of firing up the dish in lofty flames. WATCH VIDEO.