Changkuk manis,the most palatable vegetable in Malaysia

Cangkuk manis a.k.a Cekor manis which means sweet shrub is the most palatable and therefore by right is the most popular leafy vegetable in Malaysia.Its botanical name is Sauropus androgynus.What has been eaten by us Malaysians is actually a cultivar  meaning it was once a small shrub found growing wild in the rainforest.In Chinese it is called Shu Cai (树菜,树仔菜)which means ‘ tree vegetable’.In English it is called Star gooseberry and Malay Cheera in Indian.

Cangkuk manis plant grows to 1.5 m tall with dark green stems and light or dark green leaves.The shoots and young leaves taste great in soup and stir-fry dishes.Before cooking,leaves must be squeezed and crushed by hands .

Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.
Cangkuk manis growing at the backyard of my house.It is the thin leaf type.

Basically there are two varieties,one is the thin leaf type and another one is the thick leaf variety.The thicker leaf type has smaller and darker green leaves.

The picture shown above is the thin leaf type of cangkuk manis.Usually only the shoots are eaten because the older leaves are too tough for cooking,even after crushing with hands.

The thick leaf changkuk manis bought from market
The thick leaf changkuk manis bought from market.

 The picture shown above is the thick leaf variety of cangkuk manis which is considered as the best among all the varieties.Its dark green leaves are thick and crispy.All the leaves,young or old,can be stripped for cooking purpose.This is not possible with the thin leaf type with old leaves too tough for cooking.This variety is great for stir-fry or frying with mee or any noodles because it can be crushed easily by hands and can be cooked in a few minutes.Usually we keep this variety for frying purpose and the other type of cangkuk manis for cooking soup.

Cangkuk manis flowers and fruits borne below the leaves.The dark maroon coloured flowers will fade away after the fruits are formed.Both flowers and fruits are edible.The plant can be propagated by vegetative cuttings.

Cangkuk manis fruit and flowers.
Cangkuk manis young fruit and flowers.

This vegetable is rich in vitamin A and C.But be aware that it contains the alkaloid papaverine which is bad for lungs.Asthmatic people should avoid taking too much of it.Under any circumstances,one should not consume raw cangkuk manis.There were cases reported in Taiwan a few years back that those who drank its juice raw for weight loss purpose had suffered lung impairment.

Its potassium content is  high which is 2620 mg.Check Table 7 for its nutrients content.

 The picture below shows basic ingredients for the fried mee recipe.


Long life salted mee,white pepper,soya cubes and cangkouk manis
Long life salted mee,white pepper,soya cubes and cangkuk manis
  •  200 g crushed cangkuk manis( the thick leaf type)
  • 200 g  salted long life mee – 1 packet
  • 1 chilli
  • 3 cloves  garlic(optional)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder
  • 2 tbs roasted soya cubes – soaked in water for 15 minute.Drained and baked in oven at low temperature for 60 minutes  or until dry.
  1. Prepare the mee by soaking it in 1 litre of ying-yang water with equal portions of boiling water and tap water for 2 minutes or until it is loosen.Never use 100 %  boiling water for this purpose or else the mee will become too soft.
  2. Add 1 tbs of oil to the loosen mee .
  3. Fry the soya cubes with garlic and chilli.
  4. Add in the mee and stir fry until slightly brown.
  5. Lastly add the cangkuk manis.Dizzle a few drops of water from time to time so that the vegetable can be cooked.The mee is slightly salty so no salt should be added to this dish.


Salted mee hoom fried with cangkuk manis
Salted mee hoom fried with cangkuk manis

A popular dish among the natives in Sarawak is stir-fried cangkuk manis with pumpkin.As usual,cangkok manis leaves have to be squeezed by hands and retain the green juice which should be added to the dish.To cook masak lemak , just add coconut milk to this dish.

Stir-fried pumpkin and cangkuk manis
Stir-fried pumpkin and cangkuk manis
  • 200 g pumpkin – diced without the skin. Choose the old or ripe pumpkin which is thicker in flavour and sweeter in taste.
  • 200 g cangkuk manis
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 tsp light soya source


  1. Fry pumpkin cubes until slightly brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of water and continue cooking until pumpkin cubes turn soft.
  3. Add in cangkuk manis and stir-fry for a while.
  4. The dish is done by adding chilli and light soya source to it.


The dish looks simple enough to cook but you will be surprised by its natural flavour and sweetness which is so appetizing.

Other ways of cooking cangkuk manis include stir-fry it with baby corn,unripe durian,fresh bean curd(Dou Bao) and make vegetable pancakes.It is also the main ingredient for Hakka Ban Mian(客家板麵),the broad mee cooked in Cangkuk manis soup.Not to forget it is also one of the side dishes for lei cha.Here in Sarawak,people likes to fry it with eggs.

Oh yes,once you have tasted this vegetable,you might get addited to it.It just happens.Don’t ask me why……..


Ever popular vegetable in Malaysia

    The taste of Cangkuk manis remains in our memories……..








How to cook Nasi lemak?

Nasi lemak,the coconut milk rice is a Malay dish well-loved by all the Malaysians from all walks of life.It is known as a national dish of Malaysia.It would be strange if it is not included in the Malaysian Vegetarian recipe.In Chinese it is 马来椰浆饭.My first encounter with this dish was in the university canteen.Back then it was sold at 50 cents for one plate.Now the price has gone up to at least Rm 3.Those were the days when we either ate nasi lemak or roti canai for breakfast or subsequent meals for the day.

 The most important part of Nasi Lemak is its source,known as sambal in Malay.In my recipe,I am using the unopened florets of  bunga kantan(torch lily).

The picture below shows a mature bunga kantan flower.

Bunga Kantan in full bloom
Bunga Kantan in full bloom

The flower is showy with waxy bracts of brightly colours ranging from white to pink,red and maroon depending on the variety.

The picture below shows young flower buds of bunga kantan.

Young flower buds of bunga kantan.
Young flower buds of bunga kantan.

The young flower bud can be cut into halves and used in soup.For the nasi lemak recipe,we  have to use the mature flower as shown in the first picture.

The outer bigger bracts of the mature flower are discarded,leaving the tiny bracts and unopened florets for use in cooking.

The tiny,aromatic bracts are used in soup or stir-fry with other vegetables.

Tender bracts from Bunga kantan.
Tender bracts from Bunga kantan.

  The picture below shows the unopened florets whicn can be eaten raw in salad.I use these florets to replace onions in my vegetarian Nasi Lemak recipe.The use of bunga kantan in the sambal gives the dish a kind of aroma which is so unique to taste.

Click here to find out more about bunga kantan.

Unopened bunga kantan florets.
Unopened bunga kantan florets.

The picture below shows the two ingredients for the sambal i.e. asam jawa paste(seedless tamarind paste) and the vegetarian belacan made from fermented soya beans and salt.

Left- The seedless tamarind paste. Right- The vegetarian belacan


Preparing the source(sambal assam)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs chilli powder
  • 2 tbs asam paste
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 10 g  vegetarian belacan – made from fermented soya bean.
  • 1 cup of unopened florets from 3 stalks of Bunga Kantan(can be replaced by 2 big onions).
  1. Blend all the ingredients together except the florets of bunga kantan.
  2. Boil the blended mixture in the wok till it turns thicker but remains runny.
  3. Add in the florets and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Now the sambal is ready.Keep aside and allow to cool.


Long grain rice  to be cooked together with pandan leaves(screwpine leaves),cinnamon sticks,lemon grass and sawtooth coriander leaves.
Long grain rice to be cooked together with pandan leaves(screwpine leaves),cinnamon sticks,lemon grass and sawtooth coriander leaves.


Preparing the rice


  • 2 cups(400g)  long grain rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 stalks serai(lemon grass) – crushed
  • 6  pandan leaves(screwpine leaves)
  • 6  sawtooth coriander leaves
  • 2  cinnamon sticks
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 600 g grated coconut without husk- from which extract 4 cups of coconut milk.


  1. Wash the rice and strain.
  2. Add all the ingredients in the rice.
  3. Leave aside for 2 hours.
  4. Cook in rice cooker for 1 hour.

That’s it.It is that simple,isn’t it?

Serve the Nasi lemak with roasted groundnuts,pan-fried tempe,sambal,sliced cucumber and a quarter of boiled banana flower to add more fibre to the dish.

Very often nasi lemak is wrapped in banana leaf or brown paper and sold at Rm2 or Rm3 per packet.Vegetarian rendang cooked with chick peas and potatoes can be added to the rice as one of the side dishes.Pineapple and pumpkin cooked in sambal can be added too.In some vegetarian cafes,nasi lemak is served with additional side dishes like deep-fried vegetarian salted mock fish fillets and stir-fried kangkong.

Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak served with roasted groundnuts,sambal asam,fried tempe and boiled banana flower.



             It is hot!!! 

It is sweet!!!

It is sour!!!

Do not miss it when you are in Malaysia.