Sambal Kangkung With Shrimp Paste

Close up of sambal Kangkung With Shrimp Paste on plate.
Connie Veneracion
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
148 Calories
10g Fat
14g Carbs
3g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 148
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 588mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 289mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Kangkung is Ipomoea aquatica, a semiaquatic plant that grows in swamps. It is called kangkong in Tagalog in the Philippines, rau muống in Vietnamese, phak bung in Thai and kangkung in Malaysian and Indonesian. Both the hollow stalks and the leaves are edible although the stalks are tougher and take a bit longer to cook.

Sambal is a generic term for chili-based sauces; there are a lot of varieties, we suggest using sambal oelek (available in the Asian section of most groceries). If you use sambal belacan which is a chili and shrimp paste, you don’t have to add shrimp paste separately, but you’ll probably have to make adjustments to the amounts. You can serve this as a vegetable dish alongside a meat dish. It’s not totally vegetarian because shrimp paste is an ingredient; if you want to transform it into a vegetarian dish, just omit the shrimp paste.


  • 1 cup coarsely chopped kangkong, or mature spinach

  • 2 to 3 medium shallots, diced

  • 6 clove garlic, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon minced lemongrass

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste

  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce, more to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Cut the kangkung or spinach into two-inch lengths. Separate into three portions—the thick lower stalks, the middle portion of the stalks and the leaves.

  3. Grind the shallots, garlic and lemongrass to a paste (a mortar and pestle are traditional, but you can also use a food processor).

  4. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the shallot-garlic-lemongrass paste, sambal oelek, tamarind paste, sugar, ginger, shrimp paste, and 1 teaspoonful of fish sauce. Cook gently over medium heat until the mixture separates from the oil.

  5. Add the kangkung or spinach stalks—the thick ones. They take the longest to cook so they go into the pan first. Stir. Pour in about three tablespoonfuls of water and cook for about two minutes.

  6. Add the middle portion of the stalks, stir, cook for a minute.

  7. Add the kangkung or spinach leaves, stir and cook for about half a minute.

  8. Taste, add more fish sauce if needed and serve hot.