Cooking [this] took us back to Saigon, to my grandparents village, to sitting down and eating with my family and extended family.






Skill level

Average: 3 (35 votes)

When my family and I first arrived in Australia from refugee camps in Hong Kong in 1979, we felt so blessed and grateful that we finally had a safe haven.

We were living in a migrant hostel in Fairy Meadow down the south coast of NSW. Australia had just come out of the White Australia policy and wasn’t as culturally diverse as it is today. We were part of the early arrivals of refugees from Vietnam.

The availability of ingredients for our Vietnamese dishes was very limited. After the first few months, my family had managed to save up enough to buy a rice cooker. That, for us, was amazing. We were thrilled to be able to cook rice. But what could we cook to go alongside it?

It was a while before we found Asian greens for sale, at one small local Asian grocery store. And they had water spinach. It was cheap and affordable but it was also delicious.


  • 1 bunch of water spinach (from Asian grocery) 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce to make vegan version)
  • 1 tbsp oil 
  • cracked pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


1. Wash water spinach and then cut 1 cm off the end of the stems.  

2. Chop the spinach, roughly into quarters.

3. Heat up the wok. Pour in the oil, add the garlic and fry for about a minute. 

4. Add the water spinach, stir fry it until it settles and then add the fish or soy sauce and cracked pepper. 

5. Once the water spinach has softened, turn off the heat. Put on a plate and eat as a side or with white rice. 


To find out more and purchase a copy of Share a Meal, Share a Story: Celebrating Refugee Stories head to the Refugee Council of Australia website here.

World Refugee Week is June 14-20, 2020. Share a Meal, Share a Story is a community fundraising initiative of the Refugee Council of Australia. We are encouraging people to get together, share a delicious meal and share stories that help build empathy and understanding of refugee experiences. In light of COVID-19, you can host your event either in-person or online. You could host a Zoom where you share a story from our website and each eat a meal in your own homes!