Cah Kangkung Terasi Recipe (Stir Fry Water Spinach with Terasi)

Saute Wate Sspinach BelacanI bet people who grew up in South East Asian countries know this signature ingredient, dried shrimp paste. Many things I’d like to share here including different names of this ingredient in different countries, 3 different types of terasi in Indonesia and also how to choose a good terasi.

Based on wikipedia, here are several different names:
Terasi (in Indonesia)
Belacan/Belachan (in Malaysia and Singapore)
Bagoong Alamang (in the Philippines)
Mắm Ruốc, Mắm Tép and Mắm Tôm (in Vietnam, the name depends on the shrimp used)
Kapi (in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand)
Ngapi (in Burma)

However, the Dutch knows this as “Trassi” and it’s actually pronounced the same as Indonesians read a word “terasi” quickly.

I came from a suburban town of Surabaya that is known for its shrimp carckers and terasi. My housing area was very closed to the famous shrimp crackers manufacturing “Finna“.

As a natural food flavoring, terasi is a legacy hereditary produced by generations of fisherman communities in Indonesia. Currently, terasi is still produced traditionally. Some areas are known as producers of terasi is Bagansiapi-api. However, many little towns in Java island are known as the centre of home-based shrimp industries such as Sidoarjo, Rembang, Indramayu, Cirebon and Pati.

Since I grew up in Sidoarjo, I love Ny Siok terasi. It’s very popular brand of terasi in Indonesia which I only can get from Vancouver. For this recipe, I used Cirebon’s brand.

I found a good article about terasi from my almamater website. Unfortunately, it is written in Indonesian. So, I tried to take the main parts and translated for this post. In Indonesia, terasi is not only made from shrimp, but fish too. So, there are 3 types of terasi, terasi udang (dried shrimp paste), terasi ikan (dried fish paste) and terasi kombinasi ikan dan udang (dried shrimp and fish paste). Most Indonesians like the shrimp one, since it has more pleasant aroma and tastes more delicious.

Quality of terasi on the market depends on raw material quality, processing, and packaging products. A good-quality terasi can be marked by its colour, ie dark brown or black. The black colour of terasi is a natural. Color pigments were derived from fish or shrimp. Never ever choose the red colour since it contains Rhodamine B which is used to dye textiles. Research has shown that the continuous use of Rhodamine B will cause to liver cancer, kidney and bladder.

I have no background of Chinese language, thou I lived side by side with Chinese communities (especially the Peranakan) in Indonesia. Rasa Malaysia has told me on the Indonesia Eats facebook page that cah is actually a Chinese dialect for stir fry. She was quite surprised that Indonesian uses that word for stir fry. Actually, there are 3 Indonesian words for stir fry; cah, tumis and oseng (or oseng-oseng).

I know two kinds of water spinach or morning glory (kangkung), kangkung air (English: water morning glory, Science: Ipomoea aquatica Forsk., Malay: kangkong air) and kangkung darat (English: garden morning glory, Science: Ipomoea reptana Poir., Malay: kangkong kampong).

The original recipe uses ebi or dried shrimp. I twisted the recipe by skipping ebi for fresh prawn/shrimp.

Cah Kangkung Terasi
– Stir Fry Water Spinach with Terasi –
adapted from Joy of Cooking, modified and translated by me

1 kg water spinach, wash the water spinach and shake it dry
1/2 tbsp tamarind dissolve in 1 tbsp lukewarm water
1 tbsp light soy sauce
200 g medium prawn/shrimp, washed and discarded the heads
1 tbsp oil for stir frying
salt as desired

Spices to be ground:
6 shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp tauco (salted fermented soy beans)
½ tsp terasi udang (dried shrimp paste), toasted
5 red long cayenne peppers

1. Prepare the vegetable by breaking off the leaves at the base, and then breaking the stems with your hands at about 1.5″ intervals. Leave the top last part of stem intact with the top 2 leaves on.

2. Heat your wok to really HIGH. The key of stir fry is a HOT HOT HOT wok. If you’re using an electric stove, leave the stove on high for about 3-5 minutes with the skillet full of oil sitting on top. Stir fry ground spices and shrimps until fragrant.

3. Add water spinach/morning glory, tamarind mixture, soy sauce and salt (I didn’t add any salt). Flip the vegetables and spread out a few times to make sure they evenly cook. They’re done when the leaves are dark green and wilted and the stem is medium green. Don’t overcook, or they’ll taste bad. Remove from heat and enjoy! In this case, I ate with rendang and warmed cooked rice.

Cah Kangkung Terasi on FoodistaCah Kangkung Terasi

About the Author

An Indonesian-born who lived in Winnipeg, Canada for more than a decade prior to move to Edmonton in 2017. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.