Foraging with the ‘Fugees

Things that are funny: listening to your relatives fawn over edible plants at the state botanical gardens.  And by edible I mean the sort of plants I’ve only seen Southeast Asians eat. I have grown accustomed to discouraging the OGs (that’s Original ‘FuGees for anyone who isn’t hip to my jive) from harvesting plants in public. 

Sometimes they are unstoppable.  My younger cousins have had the pleasure of going wild bamboo harvesting with the OGs.  It is the role I have handed down to them – well, not intentionally.  Everyone gets recruited, eventually.  Everyone.

As a teenager it is a little disconcerting – embarrassing even – to be seen pulling over on the side of a major road, equipped with machetes and rice sacks, dressed like Viet Cong.  Mom and Pa Boun might have been scoping out this site for a week, on their way to work or various errands. The bamboo looks thick here…probably a good haul. Then you have to wedge yourself through a fence and fend off spider webs and ticks, just so you can serve as a pack mule while the adults gather as many shoots and stalks as they need.

I am grateful that they now harvest the bamboo from Mom’s front yard (and the future generations can be grateful for this as well).  She has a knack for uprooting things from the woods, sticking it in the dirt, and willing it to grow.  Her bamboo grove has to be carefully watched, or it will take over the whole Shire.

Not-so-recent photo of the bamboo grove

People think I’m joking when I say my family is equipped to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.  I am not joking.

If you ever have the honor of dining at my family’s table, I give you fair warning: a lot of what they eat is considered roughage, and you are in for a short course in colon cleanse.

As an example, I have prepared some classic roughage for you.  There is a plant that grows well in flooded fields, which we call paak boong. In English, I have seen it called morning glory, but in my experience you get funny looks when you say I love morning glory! Maybe you’ll have a different experience – try it and let me know.

Quick & Dirty Paak Boong

  •  Several cups of paak boong (they cook down a lot, much like spinach)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (I like a lot of garlic)
  • Oyster sauce or soy sauce to taste
  • Cracked black pepper

Slice the stalks at a diagonal in 1-2 inch segments.  Wash and dry thoroughly.  In a hot wok, heat up oil and lightly saute garlic.  Add paak boong and toss with oyster/soy sauce.  Careful not to overcook the greens or, as I have a tendency to do, overcrowd the wok.  Finish with cracked black pepper.  That’s it!  They are tasty with jasmine rice or even noodles.



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18 thoughts on “Foraging with the ‘Fugees”

  1. That’s looks vaguely similar to some “mystery” vegetable I’ve eaten at my MIL’s before. Pretty good! I love the part about pulling over on the side of the road. Daniel always says that if we ever accidentally hit a deer while driving, we are going to pull over and load it onto the car. All I can do is pray we never hit a deer 🙂

    1. HA!! I have definitely stopped to pick up a deer with my mom. We didn’t hit it – someone else did and called her right away. Too funny.

  2. Hi Noony, great to meet you, your story made me literally laugh out loud, several times, especially this: “a lot of what they eat is considered roughage, and you are in for a short course in colon cleanse.” It must be fun when you visit your parents!! Thank you for bringing this enlightening post to this weeks Fiesta Friday, have a great week 🙂

    1. Hey there! I’m glad I could give you a laugh. I really love visiting my parents. I do absolutely nothing but eat heavenly food and sleep the sleep of babies. It always feels like a mental health holiday. Happy hump day (tomorrow)!

  3. Great story, Noony! You are really funny! You know when I was in Vietnam, we ate morning glory everyday because we loved it so much! I often wondered if you could buy it over here, but living in British Columbia, I don’t think we can. We have a very pernicious weed that grows here, with that same name, but I don’t think it is what you are describing. Do you actually forage for it where you live?

    1. I read up on it before I wrote this post, and evidently there are a few plants with that name. I should find a picture of where/how it grows for you. My mom and aunt got the seeds from somewhere, but I have no idea where. It doesn’t grow wild here, I don’t think? It’s kind of funny because I feel like I am foraging from their yard whenever I visit. I come home with a ridiculous amount of roughage! 🙂

      1. I would love to find out where and how it grows. My husband and I really wished we could find it here once we came home from that trip. You’re lucky you can “forage” in their yard!

  4. Hi Noony, it was nice of you to share this to Fiesta Friday! In the Philippines, we it “Kang-Kong” and it is use for our National Soup “Sinigang”. We also cooked it in soy sauce which we call it “Adobong Kang-Kong”. We Pinoys love Kang-Kong so much that why I’m so happy to see it preferred by other countries too.
    By the way, is the photo of Bamboos above taken somewhere in Laos?

  5. I like your write-up Noony. Your kind of food “roughage” is a big portion of my meals. I am always on the lookout for new kinds of roughage and ways to make it. I always look at the array of greens at my chinese grocery store and wonder how they would taste. I have tried a few like bok Choy, brococolini etc. now I have one more that I can try. Thanks:)

    1. I love bok choy and broccolini…any type of greens, really! The problem is, I cook them pretty much the same way. I need to branch out but nothing beats simple soy sauce and garlic.

  6. I am not from SE Asia (although I did live in Singapore and loved the food) but I would be happy to eat this dish if I could ever find the ingredient – even, or especially if it meant foraging for it. That way you know exactly what you are getting, where it came from – much less risky than shopping at a supermarket.

    1. I think the original plants were foraged for…somewhere. Then my aunt found a way to cultivate it in the back yard. So technically, it’s not foraging so much as it’s gardening. 🙂

  7. Pulling over to the side of the road with your machetes, dress like Viet Cong?! Oh girl, you are too much! We ate this all the time growing up, but I don’t know what the Vietnamese name for it is. I still crave these greens sometimes, but I can only usually get them at specialty Asian markets, which as you know, I do not like visiting unless they are super clean. 🙂

    1. I was hoping that the Viet Cong joke didn’t offend anyone…but let’s be serious – that’s what people were thinking! haha I remember your Asian market phobia. Sometimes you have to live dangerously, Ngan. 😉

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