Kangkung, Ipomea aquatica, is a crawling vegetable with hollow stems, allowing it to float on the water, from whence it gets the name water spinach. There’s no relation – in fact it is in the Convulvulaceae or morning glory family. It is a mainstay of kampung cuisine, growing freely in the canals and marshy places. Although peasant food, it has its etiquette: the stems should be cut such that each stem has a leaf, and the leaf should be uncut. The orang tua on my wife’s side will not eat kangkung that has been chopped indiscriminately. Its dignified lowliness, its crawling, floating wayside abundance, allows it to represent humility when evoked in the following pantun.
Batang jati kangkung
Tumbuh rapat di dalam taman
Suka dipuji gemar disanjung
Bukanlah sifat orang budiman
“Morning glory of the water /
Growing thickly in the garden.
Love of praise and pride in honors /
Is not the way of the gentleman.”
Malay pantun courtesy of UKM Malay Civilization Database
English translation mine.