Sarawak MFF: Stir-fried Manicai with Eggs

I’d like to thank Wendy from Table for 2 or more for organising the Malaysia Food Fest. It’s such a meaningful exercise for us to get to know the unique dishes from each state of our country. And best still, I get to share some of the dishes I’ve grown up eating. Which is why I’m most excited about this month’s theme: Sarawak! I’ve previously blogged about some of my favourite Sarawak dishes here. The Sarawak month is hosted by Sharon from Feat of Feasts.

There are many Sarawak dishes that can’t be found in Kuala Lumpur unless you’ve brought the ingredients over to cook at home. Not this dish though. The ingredient is commonly found in markets and even supermarkets, some of you might even have them growing in your garden (Yen, for example). Sauropus androgynus might seem too grand a name, in Chinese it’s called Manicai, in Malay Cangkuk Manis or Sayur Manis, and in English, Sweet Leaf. In Sarawak we common have it fried with eggs, while over here it’s used with Pan Mee.

Stir-fried Manicai with Eggs 马尼菜炒蛋

Everytime we go out to a restaurant or a kopitiam in Bintulu, I would always request for this dish. When done right it’s sweet, the slight chewy leaves are balanced with the soft fluffy eggs. Nutritious too, as it’s high in Vitamin K, A, B, C, Protein and Minerals. I could just eat this alone with rice.

There’s an important step involved when cooking this though. The leaves are originally bitter without this step. Basically you have to squeeze out all the juice by hand. The excess amount of this juice can be bad for your lungs, due to a chemical called alkaloid papaverine (the people in Taiwan learnt this the hard way as Manicai was once very popular for weight loss there and they were juicing it!)

Manicai, washed, salted, and squeezed dry.

Stir-fried Manicai with Eggs (source: My Mother)

200g Manicai (plucked from stalks)
1 tablespoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 teaspoon MSG-free Anchovy Powder *
50ml water
1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional)

(That’s a very short ingredient list! Even shorter if you like to omit the light soy sauce. I just like the flavour)

*I personally do not cook with MSG, so I substitute with Anchovy Powder. If you want to use MSG, just add about half a teaspoon. 

First, wash the leaves thoroughly, roughly tear with hand, and add the salt. Leave for several minutes, then squeeze all the juice out (you’ll inevitably tear some more leaves, that also helps in getting the juice out). Rinse, and squeeze again. Set aside.

In a wok/pan, heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil (you really need quite a bit to achieve that lovely sheen and moisture). Once it’s hot, cook the garlic until aromatic. Stir in the leaves in, when wilted add chicken stock powder and cook for about 1 minute. Add water when it starts to look quite dry (about halfway through).


Make a well in the middle, crack the eggs in and beat with chopsticks to mix. Once the eggs are starting to set, start mixing everything together, adding more water if needed. Stir in the soy sauce. Turn off the heat after about a minute or so. Serve while hot.

Caught the fat cat having a good sniff. It is indeed delicious!

Now I can enjoy this dish anytime! Do try this dish out and you will not be disappointed. It’s much tastier (and therefore, more children-friendly) than Spinach!

For the non-Sarawakians: Have you ever had Manicai cooked this way?

I am submitting this dish to Malaysian Food Fest, Sarawak Month hosted by Sharon of Feats of Feasts

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Baby Sumo says:

    Hehe thanks for sharing this, although simple you provided a good tip about squeezing out the juices to make it less bitter. Will have this for lunch/dinner tomorrow.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Can’t wait to see your version!

  2. missyblurkit says:

    I love this! Never knew it was a Sarawakian dish. THANX for sharing!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Do you know if any local restaurants serve it this way? It seems to be either rare or non-existent. In Bintulu almost every tze-char place serves this.

  3. bluredfrank says:

    Even the cat approves. Makes it a massive winner. I want to try later. Er. Just for ‘Research’ purposes. The images work very well. Tempting.

    1. kellysiew says:

      That cat will approve ANYTHING.

  4. WendyinKK says:

    this is really new to me. I have heard that manicai is very popular in Marudi, and my mom who went there for a relative’s wedding told me, they eat manicai almost at every meal and wondered if other vegetables are available or not, LOL.
    I know that there’s something in there that’s not good, I thought it’s some cyanide compounds, but haha, no, it’s an alkaloid. Thanks for the information. And the weirdest things about eating this vege is that it doesn’t digest well and comes out… hahaha. Let’s not get into details. So, our family doesn’t consume this often, unless it comes with pan mee.
    But then again, it really sounds interesting and I’ll try this when I see some nice manicai in pasar.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hahahaha every meal would be a bit extreme! But if I do go out every night to restaurant in Sarawak I’d probably order it every night. As for digestion, you are right about that too. I guess that’s why it used to be marketed as weight loss food (and still is to some extent). Hopefully you’ll try making this soon!

      1. WendyinKK says:

        yes, the relatives brought my mom eating out, that’s why lor.

  5. Yee Ling says:

    The first time I had this was in Sibu..But I think I will prefer Midin more than this. Yours looking delicious and exactly what I had in the restaurant.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Yes! I love Midin though can’t find that in KL. Usually those two would both be ordered. 😀

  6. suituapui says:

    Did you mention that you should “tear” the leaves? That would bring the juices and all the sweetness out. Besides, it is not very digestible so tearing the leaves will help ease that problem…and we do not use soy sauce in the cooking – would not want to drown out the sweetness of the vegetable – salt and msg will do..

    No worries! We’ve been eating this since young and rather often too – no problem with our lungs…and cyanide, I hear, is found in tapioca leaves…but cooking it longer will get rid of that, or so they say.

    P.S. Eyew!!!! The cat!!!!!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. I’ve linked you in my blogroll.

    1. kellysiew says:

      Yeah I did tear the leaves when i squeeze them, probably should have clarify that. Will edit. I don’t use MSG at home that’s why I added soy for a bit of body, the chicken stock powder also does that too. My mum doesn’t add Soy though as she uses MSG in her cooking. Once the juice has been squeezed it gets rid of the alkaloid anyway.

      1. suituapui says:

        Yup! I guessed as much when you said squeeze but I think “tear” is a more appropriate word as we do tear the leaves into small bits and pieces.

        Ahhhh!!!! I see, my bad!!! I thought I saw msg mentioned in your recipe – it’s msg-free chicken stock powder. Hmmm…that’s why I do not cook following recipes – sure disaster! LOL!!!

        Can still skip the soy sauce, since you have salt already – either-or perhaps, take your pick.

      2. kellysiew says:

        Yeah. I added it because I like the taste, that’s why I put optional there lor. Hehe. The salt is mostly rinsed off after washing the leaves, I did not add any salt in the cooking.

      3. suituapui says:

        Ahhhh!!! A lot healthier that way, I’m sure…

  7. ironchefshellie says:

    mmmm healthy and easy! I feel like I should have a bowl of it right now!

    1. kellysiew says:

      I actually had that without rice at all for lunch yesterday! 😀

  8. jeannietay says:

    Sounds like a really healthy meal on it’s own, I should really make an effort to keep a lookout for this veg!

    1. kellysiew says:

      Yes! Usually they come still attached to the stalks. Quite easy to identify.

  9. libishski says:

    My mum makes a similar dish using chives and spinach leaves. She uses chicken stock instead of MSG too 🙂

  10. Wow niceeee i’ve never heard of Manicai not sure we can get it 🙂 And definitely no MSG if possible 😉

    1. kellysiew says:

      It’s only available in the SEA due to the climate. But must try if you come to Malaysia 😀

  11. butik says:

    manicai cook with coconut milk also nice..have u ever try it?

    1. kellysiew says:

      Never tried that before! Do you happen to have a recipe?

  12. nowonelse says:

    Hmmmm, looks delicious! I discovered this dish as soon as I set foot in Sarawak, it is indeed tastier than spinach, although I love that too..

    1. kellysiew says:

      It’s definitely tastier than spinach given the mild sweet taste. Glad you like this dish!

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