Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Leaves Fried With Sambal

My wife came to the kitchen with a handful of sweet potato leaves that she had just harvested from the vege patch in our backyard. Nonchalantly, she put it into a jug as if it was a bouquet of cut flowers for the house. She turned to me and said, “It not what you think but it’s for dinner tonight”, as she added water to keep it fresh.
The leaves of sweet potato are often judged to be a poor man’s’ vegetable in the past and eaten without much fanfare as it has been given today. In modern Singapore today, a dish of sweet potato leaves cooked in sambal would cost at least $10 or more for anyone who likes to sample the taste of yesteryear at the food stalls in the kopitaim. The image of these leaves as a vegetable was tarnished during the World War II, as it became the staple diet of many families during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (especially in the tropical warm climates, where the plant tends to be evergreen and be easily grown all year round in any vegetable patches).
According to my late mother, sweet potatoes were a daily staple in those days as there was a great shortage of rice during the war. Sweet potato was dished up in every possible way, making many older Singaporeans resistant to the use of this very versatile plant and its tubers for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, the sweet potato plant is related to morning glory, not potatoes, and originated from Mexico.

Sweet Potato Leaves Fried with Sambal(Hwang Tsu Heok Char Sambal)

500 gm Sweet potato leaves
4 tbsp cooking oil
80g Dried prawns soaked and pounded.

To make Spice paste (ground or pound):

5 pcs fresh chillies
8 pcs dry chillies soaked
2 cloves garlic
I small brown onion or 12 shallots
5 candlenuts
5g belachan, toasted
3 tbsp of water
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
Wash and drain sweet potato leaves. Cut stem and leaves into 50mm in length. Heat wok and add oil to fry dried prawns until slightly golden brown. Remove and set aside. With the same oil in the wok, sauté the grounded spice paste until fragrant. Add sweet potato leaves and stem and stir fry to mix well with paste.Put in fried dried prawns and mix well. Add water and salt to taste.


  1. do u keep breaking the stem of the leaves so as to remove the "skin"?
    also why youe sweet potato leaves come in so many colours?

    1. We do not need to remove the stringy membrane of the stems as we harvested the leaves when they were young and tender. The leaves turn from purple to green as they mature.

  2. Hello, what an interesting blog you have here. Nice stories... I haven't seen sweet potato leaves, let alone, eat them. How interesting. I'm sure it tastes superb with the sambal. I'm a sambal fan, that's why I find your blog really interesting. Will be coming back more often, as I linked you up to my blog.

    1. Thanks for your visit and linking my blog to yours. I also enjoy reading your interesting blog.

  3. Hi Uncle Phil!
    I love the beautiful reds of your sweet-potato green leaves.
    Despite our supposedly being able to easily get stir-friend sambal potato-leaves downstairs at the coffee-shop zi-char (Chinese-cooking stall), yours looks so refreshingly different, that I'm salivating just thinking how well they'd taste!

  4. I love sweet potato leaves. It's delicious. Normally we will either fry with rice flour and make like potato chips. This is the first time I heard it being cooked with sambal. Really unique! But uncle Philip, can you post the photo of the Sweet Potato Leaves cooked with sambal so I have idea what it will look like.

  5. You mean ubi keledek or sweet potato fritters? I didnt take a photo but I definitely take a photo and post it when I cook it again.

  6. Uncle Phil, I think Ruzia refers to a photo of those lovely leafy vegetables stir-fried in chilli paste, as you have clearly described in your recipe, in this post.