Update (Nov 2013): First posted in Apr 2010, now updated with new photos & improved recipe.
I am calling this dish “spinach in superior broth” (上汤菠菜/苋菜) only because that is how our restaurants & zi char stalls name this dish. With a fancy name like that, of course the eateries charge premium for this dish, when the home-cooked version is actually inexpensive (under S$3!). What makes the home-cooked version “superior”, in my humble opinion, is the home-made ikan bilis stock which is natural and free from artificial flavourings & MSG. I love this dish thoroughly because it is both a vegetable and a soup dish in one. I make ikan bilis stock once a week and keep it in the fridge, so I have an instant soup base to whip this dish in a jiffy whenever I want to.
There are actually many variations for this dish – such as with wolfberries, salted eggs or a thicker soup (simply thicken the broth with cornstarch solution). Use your creativity to adapt this recipe!
In my opinion, making your own soup stock for this dish makes this dish truly "superior"; however, if you are pressed for time, use instant soup solutions (such as soup cubes). Vegetable & chicken stock can also be used in place of ikan bilis stock.
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:20 mins
250g Chinese spinach
50 grams ikan bilis rinsed
500 ml water
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 cloves garlic peeled & sliced thinly
1/2 century egg diced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Hua Diao or Shaoxing)
1 tbsp wolfberries soaked in a small bowl of water for 15 minutes until puffy; drained
light soy sauce to taste; optional
Separate the spinach leaves from the stem. Break the stem to 2 cm lengths, pulling and discarding the "strings" as you do so. Rinse and spin dry the vegetables.
Place ikan bilis in a disposable soup pouch and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 mins. Discard the soup pouch, set aside the stock.
Heat oil, add garlic slices and stir fry until garlic just turn slightly brown. Add spinach stems and stir fry on high heat for about a minute. Add spinach leaves and stir fry until the leaves are just wilted.
Add ikan bilis stock, century egg, sugar and wolfberries. Bring to a simmer for about a minute. Add Chinese wine and allow the wine to evaporate after a few seconds. Turn off the flame. Season the broth with light soy sauce if needed.
Noob Cook Tips:
You may use any type of Chinese spinach for this recipe, most commonly sharp spinach (苋菜) or round spinach (菠菜).
Century eggs will make the soup murky in appearance; skip this ingredient if you prefer to have clear soup.