Cassava leaves are known as “pucuk ubi kayu” in Malay (“pucuk” = “shoots”, “ubi kayu” = “cassava”), and the plant thrives in Malaysia’s balmy climate. These plants are widely grown in the country, not just in commercial farms but also in home gardens where they flourish, since they are quite hardy, requiring relatively little care and maintenance.
In addition to the regular cassava leaf variety, the long leaf variety, known in Malay as “pucuk ubi kayu pulut” (sometimes simply shortened to “pucuk ubi kayu”) is also extensively grown. Both leaf types are considered to be highly nutritious, usually consumed when tender, throughout Malaysia, though perhaps more in the villages than in the cities. The leaves are believed to be rich in amino acids thereby offering wound-healing, skin regenerative and immune-boosting properties. Their nutritive properties are perhaps enhanced by the fact that they are relatively low-maintenance plants, and due to this, they are generally accepted to have relatively low levels of fertilizer and pesticide (if at all).
In Malaysia, the leaves are popular prepared as a curry, stir-fry or “kerabu” (which is Malay version of a salad) all served as accompaniments to an everyday meal of rice. One cassava leaf curry preparation sees the leaves cooked in thick coconut milk, freshly ground turmeric and chilies. Another curry sees the leaves cooked with “tempoyak” a fermented durian paste, popular in Malay cuisine. Cassava leaves stir fried would see aromatics such as onion, garlic, dried anchovies (“ikan bilis” in Malay) and belacan sautéed until fragrant into which blanched cassava leaves are added and sautéed.
Cassava leaves “kerabu” style would see the leaves boiled first, then mixed with a paste of pulverized ingredients such as onions, garlic, bird’s eye chili, dried anchovies or dried prawns and freshly grated coconut, served straightaway with a dash of kalamansi lime juice (“kalamansi lime” = “limau kasturi” in Malay).