Phak Buung Fai Daeng (Stir-Fry Water Spinach)

By Marcus Samuelsson |

In honor of this week’s episode of The Taste, we asked guest mentor and judge Chef Andy Ricker to share with us one of his favorite spicy recipes. For this recipe, you will want to find a Thai granite mortar and pestle, as well as a wok. According to Chef Ricker, The fai daeng in the title means “red fire,” which refers not to the stir-fry’s spiciness but to the trademark flames that terrifyingly explode from the wok as it’s cooked in a restaurant kitchen.


Prep Details

Servings: 2-6


2 tbsp Thai oyster sauce

Scant tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 tsp Thai yellow bean sauce

1 tsp granulated sugar

2 tbsp vegetable oil

11 g peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly crushed into small pieces in a mortar

6 oz water spinach, thin stems (no more than 1/4-inch thick) and leaves only

3 or 4 dried Thai chiles, broken in half

1/4 cup Sup Kraduuk Muu (Pork stock), or water


Combine the oyster sauce, fish sauce, bean sauce, and sugar in a small bowl and stir well.

Heat a wok over very high heat, add the oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the garlic, take the wok off the heat, and let the garlic sizzle, stirring often, until it turns light golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Put the wok back on the heat, add the water spinach, and stir until the leaves begin to wilt, about 15 seconds. Add the oyster sauce mixture (plus a splash of water, if necessary, to make sure nothing’s left behind in the bowl) and the chiles. Stir-fry (constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients) until the leaves have fully wilted, about 45 seconds.

Add 2 tablespoons of the stock and stir-fry until the stems are just tender with a slight crunch, about 45 seconds more. You should end up with about 1/4 cup of liquid in the wok with the water spinach. If the liquid looks like it will reduce to less than that, gradually add more stock as you stir-fry.

Transfer the water spinach and sauce to a plate in a low mound and serve.