This is an unique Sarawak noodle dish that is only common nowadays. It was not that common when I was a kid. We did prepare cangkuk manis with noodles and my mum usually prepared it in a soupy form with flour vermicelli or mee sua. However, what is commonly sold in Kuching nowadays is cangkuk manis stir fried with long life noodles or rice vermicelli (beehoon).
“Sauropus androgynus, also known as katuk, star gooseberry, or sweet leaf, is a shrub grown in some tropical regions as a leaf vegetable. In Chinese it is called mani cai (马尼菜). It is one of the most popular leaf vegetables in South Asia and Southeast Asia and is notable for high yields and palatability. The shoot tips have been sold as tropical asparagus. In Vietnam, the locals cook it with crab meat, minced pork or dried shrimp to make soup. In Malaysia, it is commonly stir-fried with egg or dried anchovies. The flowers and small purplish fruits of the plant have also be eaten In Indonesia, the leaves of the plant are used to make infusion, believed to improve the flow of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers. “(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauropus_androgynus)
When you asked West Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese if they have cooked these vegetables at home, most of them will tell you not a common dish. They believed that Manicai is not beneficial to the body but most will not be able to tell you the main reasons behind. In fact, West Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese do not have much cuisines on this vegetable except one very unique noodles – the soupy “Ban Mian” that have leaves of manicai …
But for Sarawakian Chinese, it is an extremely common household dish and the preparation are usually very simple just fried with shallots, anchovies or made become with egg omelettes. Manicai, in recent years have gain popularity in Kuching eatery outlets. Shops now are selling fried manicai long life noodles or beehoon or rice..
Manicai is available in many parts of the world and it was consumed by races in other countries such as Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand and etc. Manicai is believed to improve lactation during breast feedings, aids in weight reduction and full of Vitamin K. Studies showed that the older the leaves, the more nutritious it is. WHILE MANICAI IS NUTRITIONAL, DON’T CONSUME TOO REGULARLY. Studies showed that excessive consumption of juiced manicai leaves can cause lung damage, due to its high concentrations of the alkaloid papaverine. SO CONSUME IN MODERATION but I think our Chinese ah ma does not juice the manicai and expose to such health risk..
In Sarawak, we planted our manicai and manicai is easily available in vegetable stores as it is a common vegetable items. But in Singapore, you really need some luck to get hold of manicai. It is not common at all. I can only tell you that I have ever bought it at Shengshiong supermarket, Tekka Market, Geylang Serai market and very occasionally, wet market vegetable stores.
While it is common with Sarawakian households, i think many families in Singapore and West Malaysia may not be aware on how to process manicai. Manicai sold in Singapore are rather young and as such the whole leaf is being used. It is soft and there fore it can be cooked as such.
In Sarawak, we used much older manicai. The leaves are much tougher but more aromatic and give a special chewy texture. Before cooking, we need to BREAK the leaf in small pieces. What we usually did is we washed all the leaves, take a hand full of leaves and squeeze or rub it and break the leaves. You can of course use knife to chop and nowadays, i used food processor to blend the leave into smaller pieces. Otherwise, the leaves are very chewy and it is not nice to eat at all.
Secondly, as the green juices of the leaves can make the soup bitter , it is advisable that after blending, squeeze out all the leaf juices before cooking. This will also help to reduce the alkaloid papaverine consumed. Do not be frightened by what I have described, we have been eating in this manner for many years and nothing has ever happened to Sarawakian. As long as it is not consume regularly, this vegetable does not pose any health threat. Any Sarawakian will be able to vouch for you this fact.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 4-6 adult
- 300 grams of rice vermicelli
- 100 grams of minced porks
- 1 bundle of cangkuk manis or manicai (at least 100 grams of leaves)
- 3 shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
- 2 tablespoon of dried shrimps or baby shrimps
- 1 tablespoon of minced shallots
- 3 eggs
- Pinches of salt
- Sugar to taste
- Dashes of white pepper
- 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Pluck the leaves of the manicai, clean and break by hand or use a food processor to make it small pieces. Squeeze off any juices if there is .
- Soaked the rice vermicelli for at least 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and set aside.
- Crack the eggs, pan fried in a wok and make it into omelette and break it into pieces. Dish up and set aside for later use.
- In a wok, put the cooking oil, sauté the minced shallots using high heat until golden brown and aromatic. Add the baby shrimps and shitake mushroom. Stir fry for another minute until the dry shrimps are aromatic before adding minced pork. Stir fry until meat is almost set (about 2-3 minutes), add the manicai and stir fry until well combined. Add about 1 cup of water or chicken broth and bring to boil. Add the beehoon, stir fry for about 2-3 minutes until well combined, add seasonings (salt, sugar or chicken powder, white pepper) and egg omelette before dishing up. if the beehoon is too dry to your liking, you can add additional liquids.
- Instead of rice vermicelli, long life noodles can be used. Some have used this method to fry rice as well.
- The standard condiment of this dish is sambal belachan. To make sambal belachan, just pound some toasted belachan with chilli padi, scope out, add sugar and some lime juice to make it into a sauce.
Singapore readers, I do not guarantee you can easily find manicai in the supermarket. If you are interested, do ask around in wet market vegetable stores. But I usually get mine from Geylang Serai wet market Malay vegetable stall who does the wholesaling. Prices are rather reasonable. After I write this post, I started to miss this noodle dish again..But I really need to try my luck to get hold of manicai first in the market
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