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Sweet potato leaves is called 地瓜叶 (di gua ye) in Taiwan, 红薯叶 (hong shu ye) in China and 番薯叶 (fan shu ye) in Southeast Asia. All variations because sweet potato has different names in different locales.
The leaves is shaped like an inverted heart and can grow very large. Before cooking, the leaves and stems look and feel like they could be tough. But they are not. The leaves turn soft and tender when cooked. They taste like Chinese spinach but is even nicer. Sorry, Chinese spinach.
They are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of Vitamin A and C, and riboflavin, thiamin, folic acid and niacin. Not forgetting trace minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, potassium and iron.
However, people with weak digestion should consume them in moderation.
Like I say, the leaves can get very large. If you happen to get those, cut them down to size. They shrink quite a bit during cooking (just like spinach) so do not cut them too short.
If you bought the younger leaves, they look nicer if you keep the leaves and stems together.
Wash them thoroughly before using.
Idea 1: In Stir Fry
Most people will recommend that you stir fry sweet potato leaves with garlic. It is a very aromatic way to enjoy this vegetable.
The thewoksoflife.com website featured a stir-fried sweet potato leaves recipe with garlic which I think is quite good.
From there, additional ingredients can be added. Like fresh-cut chilli.
In Singapore, we like to add an additional “exotic” condiment: belachan or sambal belachan (spicy version).
Belachan is a type of fermented shrimp paste and has a strong flavour. The idea is to use an ingredient to spice up the mostly bland vegetable. Another common ingredient for this purpose is fermented bean curd. Others include fish sauce and miso.
The disadvantage of stir-frying sweet potato leaves is that if it is not done well, it turns black due to the iron in the vegetable.
Besides the leaves, the stems can be stir-fried on its own too.
There are 2 recipes shown in the video below. In the first recipe, the stems of the sweet potato leaves are cut into inch-long pieces before they are stir-fried with pork, cut chili and garlic.
Idea 2: Blanched
I personally do not like to fry or stir-fry because of the noise and oil. The fan of my cooking hob is very noisy. And the stove top and wall become greasy and I need to wipe everything down.
A technique for cooking vegetables that has grown in popularity to replace stir-frying is blanching.
The sweet potato leaves are blanched first. The sauce is then cooked separately and mixed with the blanched vegetables. Here's a video of how it is done. Sorry the language and captions are in Mandarin but I think the video is quite straightforward.
Idea 3: In Soup
Throw sweet potato leaves into any quick-boiling clear soup. Cook it for about 5 minutes or until wilted and soft. Here is one sweet potato leaves recipe that I like very much.
Idea 4: Steamed
The video below features a sweet potato leaves recipe where the leaves are steamed. I heard it is a rustic dish originating from the countryside of the Hebei (河北) Province, China. How interesting.
How to grow sweet potato?
According to the video below, sweet potato does not grow like potato. Bury potatoes in well-drained soil and they will grow. Sweet potato will not grow if they are buried. Sweet potato slips need to be grown first by placing sweet potato in water.
I am going to try growing sweet potato slips following the advice in the video in my office. Not that I wanted to grow sweet potato but I think they make great office bonsai.
I was told by a friend that she stuck sweet potato stems straight into the soil and it has started to grow. I did not know that sweet potato can be propagated by rooting the stems. I am going to try that too.
Happy Souping, Phoebe