Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf

This sambal sweet potato leaf (参巴番薯叶) is our local zichar style of stir-frying greens in the wok. The sambal sauce (a spicy paste made with chillis, belacan and aromatics) gives this dish a hot and savoury punch. The home-cooked version is so much cheaper than ordering the dish outside so this is a dish that is worth my effort :) This recipe works well with kang kong (water spinach) too.

Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf Recipe

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Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf Recipe
Usually for sweet potato leaf stems, one will pull & discard the strings (pictured above) before snapping them to short pieces to improve the texture. However, I usually skip this as it is time-consuming, and I also dislike the mild milky sap when the stems are snapped.

Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf Recipe
So most of the time, I just snipped the stems using scissors, and my family says the taste is still good.

Instant Sambal Belacan Paste
I’m using this bottle of instant sambal belacan paste. It saves me a lot of time, not having to make the sambal paste from scratch, which involves toasting the belacan (shrimp paste) and stinks up the kitchen. So this recipe is easy & fast enough for everyday cooking! If you have more time, you can use homemade sambal belacan to replace the instant sauce.

First posted on Nov 2009, updated on Jul 2019.

Sambal Sweet Potato Leaf Recipe

For a pleasant leaves-to-stems ratio, use only the top half of the stems.

This recipe works well with kang kong (water spinach) too.


  • one packet (about 300g) sweet potato leaf (番薯叶)
  • 13g dried shrimp (虾米)
  • 50ml hot water
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp cooking oil divided
  • 1 finger-length red chilli sliced to thin sections
  • 1 chilli padi sliced to thin sections for extra heat; to taste & only if needed
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 5 shallots (or 1/4 small red onion) sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sambal belacan paste instant or home-made; to taste
  • 1/4 tsp Maggie seasoning sauce (or fish sauce) optional
  • tiny pinch of salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp water add more as needed
  • 1 tbsp Chinese wine (Hua Tiao/Shaoxing)


  1. Prepare vegetable. Using kitchen scissors, snip & separate the sweet potato leaves from the stems. Snip the stems to uniform 2-3 cm length. Optional: Pull & discard the “strings” of the stems to improve the texture. Wash and dry the veggies.
  2. Prepare dried shrimps. Soak dried shrimps in a small dish with hot water until softened, about 20 minutes. Reserve and set aside the dried shrimps soaking water.
  3. Prepared grinded spices. Add softened dried shrimps, garlic and shallots to an electric food grinder or blender. Add 1 tbsp oil and pulse for a few seconds. Alternatively, pound the ingredients in a mortar & pestle or finely chop them.
  4. Stir-fry the dish. Heat remaining oil in a wokpan. Stir-fry grinded paste, garlic and shallots for a few seconds until fragrant. Add sweet potato leaf stems and stir fry briskly on high heat until they start to soften. Add the leaves and dried shrimp soaking liquid. Stir fry until the leaves are reduced in volume. Then add sambal belacan paste, chillis, Maggie seasoning sauce (or fish sauce), salt and water. Drizzle Chinese wine along the sides of the wok walls during the last 10 seconds of cooking. Stir to coat well before serving.