A few weeks ago, I moseyed over to my grandparents’ apartment in Chinatown to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. As with many Chinese holidays, the table was laden with steamed fish, roast duck, and other auspicious, delicious foods. Just about everything on the table was whipped up by their caregiver, a lovely lady from Hong Kong who happens to be a talented cook (I call her ayi, or “Auntie”). Despite the many delights on offer, the dish that captured my heart that day wasn’t fish or duck or pork, but a simple plate of leafy greens. The flavor was delicately sweet, yet umami-rich, and I couldn’t get enough.
Once she got over her amusement at my gushing over a plate of vegetables, my ayi informed me that they were 地瓜猫 (di gua mao, or sweet potato leaves) and offered to teach me her preparation. Turns out it’s incredibly simple, which has earned these greens a spot in my weeknight veggie rotation. Every time I make them, I feel nourished–by the leafy greens, of course (did I mention they’re super healthy?), but also by the warm and fuzzy feelings of that day.
- If the ends of the stems are tough and woody, trim them with a knife. I like how the greens look served whole, but if you’d like, you can slice the stems into pieces to make them easier to eat with chopsticks.
- Heat a wok over medium-high heat until a droplet of water evaporates immediately upon touching the surface. Swirl in the oil and add the minced garlic. Fry for a few seconds, then add the shrimp paste, fu ru, and chicken broth.
- Stir to combine the ingredients, then add the greens and stir-fry for a few minutes, until the leaves are just wilted and the stems are cooked through. Serve immediately.
- Where can I buy sweet potato leaves? Here in New York City, I buy the leaves from Lani’s Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket, which boasts an impressive range of fresh, seasonal Asian vegetables. Outside of NYC, they can be found (along with all the other ingredients for this recipe!) at Asian supermarkets.
- Picking greens: If you can, pick greens with soft, bendy stems and large, unblemished leaves, which will fry up tender and sweet.