Vegan Japanese Cuisine: Water Spinach Miso Soup

Water Spinach is called Kuushinsai/空芯菜 in Japanese.
Ipomoea aquatica, latin foe Water Spinach is a semi-aquatic tropical plant grown as a leaf vegetable. It is known in English as Water Spinach, Water Morning Glory, Water Convolvulus, or by the more ambiguous names “Chinese spinach” and “swamp cabbage”. It has many other names in other languages. It is found throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world; it is not known exactly where it originated.

Water spinach

Ipomoea aquatica is most commonly grown in East and Southeast Asia. Because it flourishes naturally in waterways and requires little if any care, it is used extensively in Malay and Chinese cuisine, especially in rural or kampung (village) areas.

The vegetable is a common ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes. In Singapore, Indonesia and Penang, the leaves are usually stir fried with chile pepper, garlic, ginger, dried shrimp paste (belacan/terasi) and other spices. In Penang and Ipoh, it is cooked with cuttlefish and a sweet and spicy sauce. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II, the vegetable grew remarkably well and easily in many areas, and become a popular wartime crop.

In Chinese cuisine (traditional and simplified Chinese: 空心菜) there are numerous ways of preparation, but a simple and quick stir-fry either plain or with minced garlic is probably the most common. In Cantonese cuisine, a popular variation adds preserved tofu (furu, Mandarin). In Hakka cuisine, yellow bean paste[clarification needed] is added, sometimes along with fried shallots. The vegetable is also extremely popular in Taiwan, where it grows well.

In Thailand, where it is called phak bung (Thai: ผักบุ้ง), and in Burma, where it is called ga zun ywet, it is frequently stir-fried with oyster sauce or yellow soybean paste, and garlic and chillies. It can also be eaten raw, for instance with green papaya salad.

In Vietnam, it once served as a staple vegetable of the poor (known as rau muống). In the south, the stems are julienned into thin strips and eaten with many kinds of noodles, and used as a garnish as well. Ipomoea aquatica has become a common ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine.

In the Philippines, Ipomoea aquatica is usually sauteed in cooking oil, onions, garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce. This dish is called “adobong kangkong”. It is also a common leaf vegetable in fish and meat stews like sinigang. There is also an appetizer in the Philippines called “crispy kangkong”, in which Ipomoea aquatica leaves are coated with batter and fried until crisp and golden brown.

Here is a simple vegan Japanese-style recipe with miso soup:

Water Spinach Miso Soup!


-Water Spinach/Kushinsai: 1 bunch (leaves only)
-Wakame/seaweed (if dry, soften in lukewarm water first): as much as you want!)
-Aburaage/deep-fried tofu sheet: 1 half (cut according to preferences)
-Dashi/ Konbu dashi/ Seaweed dashi: 1 cup/200 cc/ml (check dashi posting)
-Miso: 1.5 tablespoons (check miso posting!)
-Chopped thin leeks


1.Wash the water spinach, cut out the leaves and drain.
Leave the aburaage in some lukewarm water for a while to take off excess oil.

2.In a pan pour the dashi. Add aburaage and wakame. Heat till just before boiling point (Boiling miso is not a good thing!).
Add miso and mix until well incorporate. Add water spinach and cook until the vegetables are cooked to satisfaction (completely raw water spinach are a bit hard on the system!).
Serve in bowl sprinkled with chopped thin leeks.

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2 thoughts on “Vegan Japanese Cuisine: Water Spinach Miso Soup”

  1. I never realised you could have it in miso soups – I absolutely LOVE it stirfried with dried shrimp paste and it’s my favourite vegetable – however, living in the UK does limit my consumption somehow!

    Oh, I’m a new reader that finds your blog extremely informative and useful 🙂


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