Saturday, 28 November 2015

Kangkung Adventures

So close to our kitchen door, so close to my Malaysian memories... Every time I exit our family room I am taken by the giggles as memories of an 'ill-fated' fishing expedition return. Memories of water hyacinth and kangkung!


The 4WD packed, we made straight for our favourite fishing pond, an abandoned tin mine, through Kuala Lumpur’s early morning traffic. With provisions for a long day, we were armed and dangerous. Watch out, toman. We are coming for you!

On arrival at 'our' pond we knew that we would have a struggle on our hands simply launching the tinny. However, we persevered using a wooden off-cut to push the boat through the massing water hyacinth and kangkung plants. How could one resist the attraction and challenge of rising toman fish in the nearby shallows? They would be 'ours'! So, against better judgement we launched our craft.


Alas nothing! Such a beautiful day for fishing but nothing. Regular rises of feeding fish, cooler than normal… nothing. I saw the sipping toman babies and foul-hooked a fingerling. Hours of casting to rises. Sore arms and shoulders. Nothing but a picnic on a boat!

Throughout the afternoon the breeze had parted the massed water hyacinth and opened up our favourite fishing spots but it also blew the weeds across the lake towards our point of embarkation and disembarkation. Still the staunch warriors that we are, we kept fishing, somewhat uncomprehending of our impending plight.


Finally at 5:30 we decided that we should head for shore because it might be a little difficult to guide the boat through the dense stands of hyacinth. It was so wide, perhaps 50 metres wide. Our first attempt to pierce through the angry weeds was fruitless. What would we do? It was impossible to motor or drag our craft through so much dense greenery. 

We sought a new point of disembarkation, just along the shore, where the massed weeds were just ten metres thick! Barging through the tangle of hyacinth and kangkung took some time. I hacked the kangkung with a knife while Ben propelled the boat forward with a paddle. Then we switched roles. Inch by tiring inch we attained the shore.

Once ashore my mate set foot for the car. I unpacked the boat and waited, taking photographs of the sun setting over the placid pond and of a goose. So appropriate!
Unbeknown to me, there was no direct passage to the car. Ben was forced to seek help from a local who dinked him on his motorbike… seven kilometres around the pond! 

When Ben returned with the 4WD it was darkWe loaded the car, then huffed and puffed the boat up the first bank, across a dusty expanse, then up a slippery second embankment. Finally, almost completely exhausted we were able to slide the boat up the back of the 4WD on to the roof racks... Worried women awaited us.

We have grown the green-stemmed variety of kangkung (water spinach) for the past three seasons. Not the easiest care of vegetables, it can be grown in garden beds. However, it demands plenty of water and nutrition: as I water my little potted plants, I water the kangkung. For us, it responds best in locations sheltered from full sun and strong, drying winds.

Without a doubt it is one of our favourites, a pleasant summer and autumn stir-fry treat, because it cannot be purchased in stores in our neighbourhood. The leaves and young green stems are the choice parts of the plant for cooking. The thicker, hollow stems require extra cooking time.  

Kangkung is a plant which keeps on giving. Harvesting the plant above ground level allows secondary shoots to develop from lower nodes. It cannot tolerate winter frosts, so must be replanted from seed early in spring. 

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