Sarawakians love our pounded cassava leaves. Only, we don’t call them “cassava leaves”. We call this bitter, fibrous plant by different names including daun ubi tumbuk, daun bandung tumbuk, uvek kele (in Kayan) and many more.
There is no better way to prepare cassava leaves than to pound them. Traditionally, Sarawakians used a long wooden pestle and mortar to pound the leaves till they got nicely crushed – not too pulpy – and slightly moist.
The cooking method for pounded cassava leaves is generally the same as stir-frying any Asian vegetable except it takes more time to cook.
For a really simple stir-fry, just heat up some oil in a wok, throw in some garlic and red onions until aromatic and then throw in your pounded cassava leaves. You know they’re done once the light green uncooked pounded cassava leaves change to a darker shade of green.
With cassava leaves, every part of its preparation from stem to pot is important. This is because poorly processed cassava plants can trigger the production of cyanide. So while you cannot eat raw cassava leaves, traditional techniques like pounding and mashing cassava leaves before cooking it can help to neutralise the cyanide-inducing cyanogens. While you are stir-frying your cassava leaves, never ever cover your wok as this is believed to trap the cyanogens as it cooks.
Here in Sarawak we have mastered the art of preparing these cassava leaves, and it is very much an essential part of local Sarawak cuisine. Here are a variety of ingredients to mix with this dish.
Here are how five common ingredients Sarawakians love to cook their pounded cassava leaves with.
1. Three layer pork meat
Three layer pork or pork belly is the boneless cut of fatty meat from the belly of a pig, and as such it has a rich, oily flavour that pork-lovers crave.
One commonly known tip to make pounded cassava leaves tastier and more delicious is to cook it with a lot of oil. However, some people would stir-fry the pork belly long enough to allow the oil from the meat to flavour the cassava. leaves.
Tepus is a type of wild ginger found in Sarawak. While some people enjoy tepus and chicken cooked in a bamboo, it also goes well with pounded cassava leaves.
3. Terung pipit
Here is another local vegetable= commonly found in Sarawak which goes well with pounded cassava leaves. In the state, the vegetable is known as terung pipit but it has fancier names such as turkey berry, shoo-shoo bush and prickly nightshade.
Also known with its scientific name Solanum torvum, the vegetable is usually stir-fried with belacan (shrimp paste).
To pair up terung pipit and cassava leaves is easy; it’s either you cook them together or you can also pound the leaves and egg plant together.
3. Gulong Sliced Stewed Pork
We bet when China brand Gulong came up with this product, they didn’t imagine that hundreds of miles away in Sarawak that people would use it with pounded cassava leaves.
Put the pork slices in once the cassava leaves are cooked. The oiliness and saltiness of the processed food somehow makes the whole dish more flavourful.
4. Luncheon meat
Luncheon meat is another source of protein which goes well with pounded cassava leaves. Just like Gulong Stewed Pork Sliced, luncheon meat is put in once the leaves are cooked.
5. Pork crackling
If we were to name a list delicious yet unhealthy snacks, pork crackling definitely takes the crown.
This snack which made of fried pork rind is crunchy and salty. Once you cook it together with pounded cassava leaves, the crackling would turn soft giving another extra texture to the whole dish.
So Sarawakians, let us know in the comment box which ingredient is your favourite!