Here’s another quick and easy dish I learned to make here in Kuching.
Stir-Fried Cangkuk Manis
Cangkuk Manis (“Chong-cook Ma-Niss”, meaning sweet leaf) or Mani chai in Hokkien is a vegetable that is very common here in Kuching. As a matter of fact, the same day that we arrived here and were introduced to paku, we also got introduced to Cangkuk Manis. Its texture when cooked is like spinach, but without the bitterness. This vegetable has a natural sweetness to it (which is why it’s name has the word “manis” – meaning sweet - in it).
How Sweet It Is
My friend Paul and his wife, Adeline, told us that this veggie is really easy to grow. Cangkuk Manis is actually the leaf of a bush commonly grown in Southeast Asia. Contrary to what you read in an earlier blog post on Paku, it is actually Cangkuk Manis that you can grow easily from it’s stem. “Just stick it in the ground and pretty soon it will start to produce leaves again” was how Paul explained it to us. I haven’t yet tried to do this because it’s so cheap to buy Cangkuk Manis at the store. For RM1, you get a big bunch!
Cangkuk Manis for Sale at Stutong Community Market
We’ve also ordered this dish in several restaurants and most times we’ve cooked or ordered it, they stir-fry this vegetable with eggs. The sweetness of the Cangkuk Manis really complements the egg nicely. Be that as it may, I was puzzled that at one particular restaurant, their Cangkuk Manis stir-fry was always sweeter than the ones I made at home. From the instructions I had been given, it was a simple stir-fry—just some garlic, shallots, egg, cangkuk manis and a bit of salt. But somehow, when I made it, the veggie did not sing with sweetness the way this particular restaurant’s did.
Anyway, after asking around and not being able to figure it out, we went to yet another restaurant where the dish was also sweeter (in a savory way). And that was when it dawned on me, they used oyster sauce!
D’uh! I should have guessed and tried it earlier. After all, oyster sauce is one of my favorite condiments to put on stir-fry veggies.
So, in this latest attempt at stir-fried Cangkuk Manis, I added some oyster sauce and finally, I had the flavor mystery figured out. Try this quick stir-fry if you are able to find this vegetable near you. I believe that in KL, they use this same vegetable in their Pan Mein. If you know it by another name, would you share?
Stir-Fried Cangkuk Manis Recipe
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large bunch Cangkuk Manis, leaves stripped from stem and crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 shallots, sliced thin
2 eggs, beaten
1-2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/2-1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Stripping and Crushing Cangkuk Manis
1. In a large wok, heat oil on medium high heat.
2. Add garlic and shallots and stir-fry for about a minute, until garlic is lightly browned and shallots are slightly translucent.
3. Add beaten eggs and stir them around quickly till they are all broken up and form little pieces. Be careful not to let them brown, you just want them barely cooked.
Stir-Frying Shallots and Eggs
4. Add Cangkuk Manis leaves and stir around.
5. Add seasoning (oyster sauce, salt and pepper). Stir to incorporate the flavors. Add a little water if necessary to keep vegetables from drying out.
6. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Plate up and enjoy over rice!
Stir-Fried Cangkuk Manis