XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry

Plate with thin sliced pork belly and water spinach stir-fry.

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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!



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
  • ½1 TSP Pure Chili Oil (optional – without flakes/seeds), to taste

For the XO Sauce Pork and Water Spinach Stir-fry:

  • 11.5 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
  • 220 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)



  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the water spinach stems: Add the stem parts of the water spinach and stir-fry for a minute until they start to soften.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stir through spring onion: Stir through the spring onion dark green parts and switch off the heat.
  7. To Serve: Transfer to a serving plate or dish and serve immediately with warm steamed rice.



  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Keywords: XO sauce pork and water spinach stir-fry, morning glory and pork stir-fry, ong choy with xo sauce