Sweet-potato leaves were a regular part of family meals for Kefu Dorion when she was growing up in Fuzhou, a city in southern China. Dorion, a Henrico County resident who teaches Chinese and Spanish at St. Catherine's Lower School, says the greens are "tasty, fresh, healthy and semi-easy to prepare. They go really well with white steamed rice."
Dorion shared this recipe with a group of Mary Munford Elementary School parents (including this writer) whose children study Chinese with her.
Stir-Fried Potato Leaves
- 1 package of sweet-potato leaves*
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine*
- *(both available from Tan-A Supermarket)
Snap off and discard the hard stems of the potato leaves. Set a wok or skillet over high heat for about 30 seconds. Pour in the oil and swirl it around, then toss in the garlic and heat it for 30 seconds, reducing the heat if the oil begins to smoke. Drop in the potato leaves and stir-fry them for 3 minutes, then add the salt, sugar and wine. Cover the pan and cook the leaves over medium heat for 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a heated platter and serve at once. Buy or Grow You can buy a bag of fresh sweet-potato leaves at Tan-A Supermarket for about $2. Dorion says a similar type of green, pea tops, are also available on occasion at Tan-A. Mechanicsville resident Chia-Wei Wang, a native of Taiwan, plants sweet-potato vine cuttings and snips off the leaves as she needs them. She likes to boil sweet-potato leaves for a minute or two, then drain them and mix in a little olive oil and ginger or garlic. Reap the Benefits Chinese people tend to eat a lot of cooked greens, such as bok-choy and Chinese broccoli, Dorion says. With plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, sweet-potato leaves "are really good for your digestive system," she notes. According to a 2010 article in the journal Nutrition Reviews, "bioactive compounds contained in this vegetable play a role in health promotion by improving immune function … reducing cardiovascular disease risk and suppressing cancer cell growth."