Sayur Manis Leaves
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Sayur Manis leaves are available year-round.
Sayur Manis is botanically classified as Sauropus androgynous. "Manis" means "sweet", while "sayur" means "vegetable". It is also known as Katuk, Sweet Leaf or Amame Shiba. In Malay it is called Cekur Manis, or Asin-Askin, in China it is referred to as Mani Cai, and in Thai it is called Pak Waan. Sayur Manis leaves contain a certain amount of oxalic acids that can prove to be TOXIC when consumed in large amounts. Sayur Manis MUST BE COOKED before consumption.
Sayur Manis leaves have a thin stem and elongated, oval shaped leaves that narrow to a more rounded and blunt point. The leaves range in color from a medium to dark shade of green. It is best to consume them young. The most tender parts of the leaves are the top four or five inches of the branch tip, which have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, reminiscent of fresh garden peas. Some say that when cooked, they have a hint of asparagus, and are sometimes sold as tropical asparagus. Sayur Manus is very mild in flavor with a slight acidic bite, similar to spinach. The plant does flower, with small rose to carmine color blossoms, and bears white-pinkish fruit with black seeds.
Sayur Manis contains iron, calcium, and Vitamins A, C and K. It is said to increase lactation in breastfeeding mothers.
Sayur Manis is used in stir fries and soups, often with belacan (dried shrimp paste). Occasionally, it's used as a leafy vegetable with noodle soups such as Pan Mee or Mee Hoon Kuih, an anchovies base soup, popular in Malaysia. Sayur Manis pairs well with eggs, dried anchovies, pork, crab or other shellfish. Though both the stem and leaves are edible most often only the leaves are preferred. To separate the leaves from the stem, just hold the stem at one end and push down with your thumb and index finger. Make sure to wash and rinse leaves several times before use. Some recommend adding salt to the wash water and let soak for several minutes to remove any bitterness from the leaves. Sayur Manis MUST BE COOKED before consumption.
The shrub-like plant is cultivated on a small scale, but is plentiful in Asian regions, particularly in its native Borneo and in some Malaysian states (notably Kuching and Sabah). There, the leaf is used mostly in home cooking rather than restaurants. You'll find the leaves in dishes like cekur manis berudang, or sweet leaves with prawns, where the leaves are stripped from the stems and boiled with small shrimp, sweet potatoes, chili, shallots and pungent dried shrimp paste. In Sabah, cooks are known to simply stir fry the leaves with beaten eggs to showcase the inherent flavor. The plant is known to be used in traditional medicine for wound healing and in fever reduction.
Sayur Manis is native to Borneo, where it is said to have originated. The hardy plant is plentiful in the Asian tropics and enjoys perennial growth. Sayur Manis prefers shade to dry and hot conditions.
Recipes that include Sayur Manis Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.