Pinoys love to use food expressions. The more archaic of my law professors would reminisce about their own professors telling them to go home and plant camote in a successful attempt to further mystify their approach to jurisprudence. They also would still describe some of our more befuddled classmates as "nangangamote." Cliche though it may have been, considering how indispensable (and delicious) the sweet potato is, I wouldn't mind calling a spade a camote.
Dr. Lee is in again.
Sweet potatoes are easy to grow in the tropics all year round. In the rural areas of the Philippines, one can often find patches of sweet potato plants in the yards of almost every house or hut. The food values of sweet potato leaves are often under-estimated. Sweet potato leaves contains vitamins and iron as well as anti-oxidants. Fifteen compounds have been founds that could prevent heart disease, diabetes, some infection and some type of cancer, according to researchers.
Sweet potato leaves are not available in your average American grocery stores. In Houston, this particular vegetable can be found in Chinatown where there is a demand for it. It fetches a price four times higher than cabbage and napa, three times higher than oriental eggplant, bitter melon, bok choy, celery, and green beans. If you take the stems (which has to be discarded before cooking), that comes with it when you purchase it, the price is even higher. Yet, camote leaves, as it is called in the Philippines is considered a "poor man's food." Poor man's food or not, I love the camote leaves with gata and crabs. The spicier the dish, the better. I grew up with it as a kid in Bicol. Bicolanos are noted for their hot dishes such as the Bicol express.
These are the recipes for sweet potato leaves:
Salad: boil the sweet potato leaves for 10 seconds, remove and drain. Add a few slices of tomatoes and unions and use oil and vinegar for dressing.
Sinigang: just like any sinigang dish, try using sweet potato leaves instead of spinach or kang kong. Add slices of tomatoes, onions, green and red bell peppers, garlic, chilies, and slivers of gingers. For 4 servings, use 4 cans of 99% fat-free chicken broth. For sour taste, you have the choice of using lemon, or calamansi juice, apple cider vinegar, powdered tamarind or tamarind concentrate. The only problem with tamarind is that it will make the soup looked murky and brownish. Not an appetizing sight. Place your milk fish or bangus on top of the vegetables, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. By doing so, you are part boiling and steam cooking the fish, thus retaining the sweetness flavor of the bangus.
Blue crabs or alimasag with sweet potato leaves and coconut milk: Clean about a dozen of blue crabs, discarding all the shells and legs and gills. Cut the crabs into two, saute' the crabs in lots of garlic, add a can of coconut milk and cook thoroughly. Add chili for a more spicy dish.
Sweet potato leaves can also be stir-fried with shrimp. Make you blanch the leaves first before cooking.
In the Philippines, we call a dim-wit disparagingly as a "camote" or worse, "camote na, may uud pa."
Next time you hear the word camote, run home and fix yourself a camote leaves dish.