XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry
This XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry is quick and easy to make in 30 minutes and jam-packed with flavor. Tender thin slices of pork belly meat, fragrant aromatics, and crisp and leafy water spinach get stir-fried in a savory and spicy sauce starring the King of Cantonese condiments – XO sauce!
If you’re looking for an easy weeknight stir-fry that’s BIG on flavor, then this XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry is for you!
- Tender, practically melt-in-your-mouth thin slices of pork belly meat.
- Fragrant aromatics like garlic, ginger, fresh chilies, and spring onion.
- Crisp savory water spinach stems and earthy wilted dark green leaves.
- The MOST delicious stir-fry sauce that’s full of all the BEST umami loaded sauces including the one and only, king of all condiments – XO sauce!
- AND it’s an easy stir-fry that requires one wok (or pan) and is ready in 30 minutes!
Pair it with some warm steamed rice and you know you can’t go wrong!
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy to make! All you need is one wok and this dish will be on the table in just 30 minutes!
- XO sauce is an umami BOMB! It adds savory and spicy seafood-y notes and plenty of BIG flavors to this stir-fry.
- DELICIOUS water spinach. Being mild in flavor with a hint of sweetness and bitterness, the water spinach balances out the savory and spicy flavors in the sauce.
- Contrasting textures. The crunchy stems and wilted leaves of the water spinach pair beautifully with the tender pork belly.
- Customizable. You can swap the pork for other thin sliced hot pot/shabu shabu meat such as beef or lamb shoulder. You can also use other Asian greens.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutes
- Pork: I’ve used thin sliced pork belly (hotpot/shabu shabu style meat) and marinated it with ground white pepper, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, potato starch and sesame oil. You can use shabu shabu style pork loin slices for a leaner option. This type of thin sliced pork is available fresh or frozen in packages in Asian supermarkets and Japanese grocery stores.
- Large Red Chilies: This is mild type of chili and similar to red bell pepper in terms of heat level and flavor. It’s used mainly for color here. Substitute with red bell pepper or omit completely if unavailable.
- Fresh Bird’s Eye Red Chilies: Or you can use any other small hot red chilies that are easily available near you. Adjust quantity to taste depending on your heat level preference.
- Chinese Water Spinach (空心菜 – kōng xīn cài): This Asian green vegetable is also known as morning glory, ong choy, kang kong, river spinach and swamp spinach. It has long hollow stems and long slender leaves. Its flavor is mild with a hint of sweetness and bitterness, but it’s not as bitter as regular spinach. While the leaves wilt like regular spinach, the stems remain slightly crunchy after cooking. Either the white stemmed or light green stemmed (what I’ve used here) variety will work for this recipe. Look for it at Chinese markets or in an Asian supermarket. If you’re based in Asia, you can easily find it in wet markets and supermarkets. If unavailable, substitute with Chinese broccoli, bok choy, choy sum or other Asian green vegetables.
- Canola Oil: Or use any neutral flavored cooking oil with a high smoke point.
- Kosher Salt: Use half the amount if using iodized table salt.
- XO Sauce (spicy or regular): This umami BOMB Cantonese condiment is full of delicious savory and spicy flavors! It’s made with shallots, garlic, chili peppers, dried seafood (dried shrimp and scallop, but occasionally dried abalone too), and Chinese Jinhua pork/ham. While there are several brands that produce XO sauce, Lee Kum Kee XO sauce is most widely available outside of Asia. I like to use their extra hot XO sauce, but they have a milder regular XO sauce if you prefer to make this stir-fry slightly less spicy. Look for XO sauce in an Asian supermarket or order a jar online. You can also use a homemade XO sauce if you prefer.
- Oyster Sauce: This thick and sticky sauce has a sweet and savory flavor. Find a bottle in an Asian grocery store or a mainstream supermarket that’s well-stocked with international ingredients.
- Fish Sauce: For additional savory umami notes. If unavailable, substitute with light soy sauce.
- Chinkiang Vinegar: A black Chinese vinegar that is available in Asian supermarkets. Substitute with half balsamic vinegar and half distilled white vinegar to yield a similar flavor.
- Shao Xing Rice Wine: This Chinese cooking wine has a floral aroma and is commonly used in stir-fry sauces and marinades. Use dry sherry if unavailable.
- Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: Low sodium soy sauce so that we can control the salt level better. If you only have regular light soy sauce on hand, use less and adjust to taste.
- Chili Oil: This is a pure Chinese chili oil without any flakes or seeds. Feel free to leave it out for a milder dish.
- White Sugar: Use more or less to taste to balance out the spicy and savory flavors.
- Potato Starch: Or you can use corn starch instead. It’s used in the stir-fry sauce as a thickening agent and makes the final dish look glossy. It’s also used in the pork marinade and gives the meat a nice velvety melt-in-your-mouth coating.
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry
1. Cook the marinated pork. In a large wok or a deep heavy bottomed frying pan. Transfer to a clean bowl once almost fully cooked and no longer pink.
2. Stir-fry the onion and aromatics. Add more canola oil to the wok if there’s not enough oil/rendered pork fat. Stir-fry the yellow onion and spring onion white and light green parts until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, both types of red chilies and stir-fry to combine until fragrant.
3. Stir-fry the water spinach stems. For a minute until they start to soften.
4. Add the pork and water spinach leaves. Add the pork, water spinach leaves and season with kosher salt. Pour a little water around the rim of the wok, then cover for a minute to allow the leaves to wilt. Then uncover and toss everything until evenly combined.
5. Pour in the sauce. Stir-fry until everything is combined well and the sauce starts to thicken.
6. Stir through the spring onion dark green parts. Switch off the heat.
Serve! Plate and serve immediately with warm steamed rice!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Adjust spice level to taste. Use less (or omit completely) fresh Bird’s Eye or other hot red chilies. Also omit the pure chili oil and use a regular (not extra spicy) XO sauce.
- Don’t use excessively fatty pork belly. It will render too much fat once cooked and the meat quantity will reduce significantly. If your pork renders too much fat, be sure to spoon out and discard some of it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. This will prevent the final dish from becoming too oily.
- Don’t use too much chili oil from the XO sauce jar. A little oil for heat is okay, but use more of the solids in order to avoid having a too greasy (and spicy) dish.
Water spinach and spinach belong to two different botanical families. Water spinach is from the convolvulaceae (morning glory) family while spinach is from the amaranthaceae family. They are different in flavor, appearance and texture. Spinach is more bitter than water spinach and does not have long hollow stems like water spinach does. However, they both are great sautéed or stir-fried and will have their own unique texture and taste once cooked.
Water spinach is available all year long, but it is abundantly available in the summer and early fall when it is in peak season.
Water spinach can be eaten cooked or uncooked. It’s great in stir-fries, steamed, sautéed, or in soups and also delicious raw in salads or juices.
- Use a different protein. Use other thin sliced hot pot/shabu shabu style meat such as beef or lamb shoulder. If you’d like to use chicken, use 400 grams / 14 ounces thinly sliced boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Or you can make my XO Sauce Chicken & Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry instead!
- Use different Asian greens. Chinese broccoli (‘gai lan’), baby or regular bok choy, choy sum, broccolini or even regular fresh spinach would work well in this stir-fry.
More Recipes with XO Sauce
- XO Sauce Chicken & Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry
- XO Noodle Soup
- XO Sauce Fried Rice (with Char Siu Pork & Shrimp)
- XO Sauce Pasta with Pork and Burst Cherry Tomatoes
- XO Sauce Mac and Cheese
More Easy Chinese Stir-fries
- Authentic Kung Pao Chicken
- Hoisin Chicken Stir-fry with Tofu
- Chicken in Vinegar Sauce (Sichuan Cu Liu Ji)
- Mongolian Lamb Stir-fry
- Stir-fried Garlic Scapes with Pork & Tofu
- Or browse the entire Stir-fries recipe collection.
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XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry
Tender thin sliced pork belly meat, fragrant aromatics and water spinach get stir-fried in a savory-spicy sauce in this XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry! Ready in 30 minutes and so GOOD with rice!
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 15
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stir-fry
- Cuisine: Chinese
For the Pork Marinade:
- 400 grams / 14 ounces thinly sliced Pork Belly (hot pot/shabu shabu style meat – note 1) – cut into 1.5-inch wide strips
- ½ TSP ground White Pepper
- 1 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- 1 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine
- 1.5 TSP Potato Starch (or Corn Starch)
- ½ TSP Sesame Oil
For the Sauce:
- 1.5 TSP Potato Starch
- 1 TSP White Sugar
- 4 TBLS XO Sauce (spicy or regular – note 2)
- 2 TBLS Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce
- 2 TBLS Shao Xing Rice Wine (substitute dry sherry if unavailable)
- 1 TBLS Oyster Sauce
- 2 TSP Fish Sauce
- 2 TSP Chinkiang Vinegar (substitute half white and half balsamic vinegar if unavailable)
- 1 TSP Sesame Oil
- ½ – 1 TSP Pure Chili Oil (optional – without flakes/seeds), to taste
For the XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry:
- 1 – 1.5 TBLS Canola Oil (or any other neutral oil with a high smoke point)
- ½ small Yellow Onion – thinly sliced
- 2 Spring Onions (Scallion/Green Onion) – cut into 1.5-inch pieces, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
- 10 Garlic cloves -smashed, roughly chopped
- 2 TBLS minced Ginger
- 2 Large Red Chilies – deseeded if desired, thinly sliced at an angle
- 2 – 20 fresh Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye or any other small hot red chilies – note 3), to taste – finely chopped
- 350 grams / 12.5 ounces Water Spinach (note 4) – stems and leaves separated, cut into 3-4cm pieces
- ½ cup Water
- ½ TSP Kosher Salt (use half the amount if using iodized table salt)
- Marinate the pork: Cut the thinly sliced pork belly into 1.5-inch wide bite-sized strips. Add to a medium-sized bowl, followed by the ground white pepper, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, potato starch and sesame oil. Mix to coat, then set aside.
- Make the sauce: Mix together the potato starch, white sugar, XO sauce, low sodium light soy sauce, Shao Xing rice wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sesame oil and pure chili oil (if using) in a small measuring cup or bowl until combined well.
- Prepare the fresh ingredients: Smash the garlic with the flat side of your knife, then roughly chop. Thinly slice the yellow onion, cut the spring onion into 1.5-inch pieces (separate the white and light green parts from the dark green parts), mince the ginger, chop the fresh Bird’s Eye red chilies. Thinly slice the large red chilies at an angle (deseed if desired). Separate the stem and leaves of the water spinach. Cut the stems into 3-4cm pieces. Rinse both the stems and leaves in separate colanders and set aside.
For the XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry:
- Cook the pork: Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large wok (or deep heavy bottomed frying pan) over high heat. Once hot, add the pork and immediately spread the pieces out in the wok. Allow to sear for 30 seconds, then stir-fry for 1 minute until mostly no longer pink and almost cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a clean bowl and set aside. If the pork was very fatty and released a lot of grease, discard all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat/oil from the wok. If not and more oil is needed, add oil until there is 2 tablespoons of oil/fat in the wok.
- Stir-fry the onion and aromatics: Heat the rendered fat and oil in the wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the yellow onion and spring onion white and light green parts. Stir-fry for 30 seconds until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, both types of red chilies and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the water spinach stems: Add the stem parts of the water spinach and stir-fry for a minute until they start to soften.
- Add the pork and water spinach leaves: Add the pork, water spinach leaves and kosher salt. Pour half cup of water around the rim of the wok. Cover for 1 minute to help the leaves soften. Uncover and toss everything until evenly combined.
- Pour in the sauce: Give the sauce a quick stir with a spoon to loosen the potato starch that will have settled at the bottom. Pour it over everything and stir-fry for 1 minute until everything is combined well and the sauce starts to thicken.
- Stir through spring onion: Stir through the spring onion dark green parts and switch off the heat.
- To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice.
- Thin sliced Pork Belly. Look for hot pot /shabu shabu style meat in packages (fresh or frozen) in Asian supermarkets and Japanese grocery stores. You can use shabu shabu style pork loin slices for a leaner option, or shabu shabu style beef or lamb shoulder if you prefer. Avoid using excessively fatty meat as it will render too much fat once cooked and the meat quantity will reduce significantly.
- XO Sauce. XO sauce is a Cantonese condiment made with shallots, garlic, chili peppers, dried seafood (dried shrimp and scallop, but occasionally dried abalone too), and Chinese Jinhua pork/ham. While there are several brands that produce XO sauce, Lee Kum Kee XO sauce is most widely available outside of Asia. I use their extra hot XO sauce, but they have a milder regular XO sauce if you prefer to make this stir-fry less spicy. Find XO sauce in an Asian supermarket or order a jar online. You can also use a homemade XO sauce if you prefer.
- Red Chilies: The large red chilies are mild and similar to red bell pepper in flavor. You can substitute with red bell pepper or leave it out if you don’t have it on hand. Adjust the quantity of the small hot red fresh chilies to taste depending on your heat level preference (and also how hot your chilies are).
- Water Spinach (空心菜 – kōng xīn cài). This Asian green vegetable is also known as morning glory, ong choy, kang kong, river spinach and swamp spinach. It has long hollow stems and long slender leaves. Its flavor is mild with a hint of sweetness and bitterness, but it’s not as bitter as regular spinach. Either the white stemmed or light green stemmed (what I’ve used here) variety will work for this recipe. Look for it at Chinese markets or Asian supermarkets. If you’re based in Asia, you can find it in wet markets and supermarkets. If unavailable, substitute with Chinese broccoli (‘gai lan’), bok choy, choy sum or regular fresh spinach.
- To make a milder dish. Use less (or omit completely) fresh Bird’s Eye or other hot red chilies. Also omit the pure chili oil and use a regular (not extra spicy) XO sauce.
- Storing leftovers: Although this stir-fry tastes best right after cooking, it will keep for 2-3 days in a sealed airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring once in between, until hot throughout.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 643
- Sugar: 10.2g
- Sodium: 1188.5mg
- Fat: 54.5g
- Saturated Fat: 2.3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 7.2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 25.5g
- Fiber: 4.5g
- Protein: 16.9g
- Cholesterol: 7.5mg
Keywords: XO sauce pork and water spinach stir-fry, morning glory and pork stir-fry, ong choy with xo sauce
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