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"Masak Lemak": Sweet leaf and sweet potato in coconut milk

“Masak Lemak” Recipe: Sweet Leaf and Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk

By: Erna Dyanty

"Masak Lemak": Sweet leaf and sweet potato in coconut milk

"Masak Lemak"--best served with rice

“Masak Lemak” is one of the many common dishes served with rice. You can find this everywhere in Malaysia, only difference is that the each state has a different way of cooking this dish and there are many variations of ingredients. Usually this dish will use vegetables that are not used in stir fried, such as sweat leaf, pumpkin, sweet potatoes which is usually paired either with each other or cooked with seafood, poultry and beef. Some like to add in birds eye chilli to give the sweet and creamy broth a little hint of hotness, well suited for variations that uses young bamboo shoots or petai beans.

This recipe that I’m about to share with you is a very light version. It has the sweet leaf and potatoes which is a great side dish to accompany fried or grilled fish. This is a dish that you can easily have it on its own. This vegetable dish does not require any frying or sautéing, it is an easy chop, slice and dump recipe that takes very little time to prepare and cook.

The extra flavour agent for this dish would be the dried shrimp. If you are not in Asia, you can easily get this from the Asian food markets. The price for dried shrimp in general even for us here in Malaysia, is one of the more expensive key ingredients in our recipes. But because you buy in bulks and only use about 1 – 2 tablespoon as a base, buying them in large amounts is actually very reasonably priced.


1 sweet potato – diced into 1″ cubes

1 tbsp dried shrimp – whole

5 shallots – sliced

3 garlic – sliced

200 ml – coconut milk (boxed or fresh)

1 cup of water

1 bunch of Pucuk Manis / Sweet Leaf /shu zai cai

salt and sugar to taste

Cooking instruction:

1. First pour in the water into your pot. Add in to the pot your shallots and garlic with the dried shrimp. Let the water boil, once it has reached the boiling point you can start smelling a rather sweet aroma.

2. Next, put into the pot your cubed sweet potato, let it cook. To know if your potato has cooked, take a piece out and pierce it with a fork, if it slides in like a hot knife to butter, your potato is cooked. This usually takes about 10 minutes.

3. Pour in your coconut milk. Be sure to stir constantly and not to boil over the milk, this will break the coconut milk and you’d get curdled milk. It is a good idea to slow down the burner for this.

4. Next, put in your Sweet Leaves. If you’ve bought this from the Farmer’s Market, you can dump the leaves and its stalks straight into the pot. But be sure to only throw in the softer stems.

5. Finally, add salt and sugar to your pot, adjust the taste to your liking. Serve hot with rice, deep fried fish and your ready to go.

This dish can be kept for at least 3 days in the fridge. I wouldn’t suggest to keep it any further, not suitable for freezers. Also if you cannot find sweet potatoes, pumpkin and yam will do great with this recipe.

*Erna Dyanty is a maker of many things, she finds being in the kitchen to be very therapeutic. She has a small note book filled with Malaysian home cook recipes, passed down to her from her dad, mom and grandmother.

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