Thursday, October 9, 2008

Okinawa Spinach (Handama) With Scrambled Eggs and White Sesame

I saw this 2-sided vegetable in the local supermarket and I had to buy it! The label/price label indicated it as 'Purple Spinach'. Hmmm... which I doubt so judging from the smell and the texture of the plant. Perhaps, a distant cousin of Popeye's favourite source of iron??? What attracted me to it was the iridescent purple color below the leaves and dark green on top of the leaves. The tangy taste of the thick leaves with a hint of bitterness, reminded me of Shungiku, Tang O/Tong Hao in Mandarin or Chrysanthemum Leaves. This edible Chrysanthemum Leaves frequently used in stir-fry, soup and omelette (my preferred choice as the eggs brings out the flavour.)

In Japan, this bicolour colored vegetable (pictures below) is called Handama, Suizenjigusa or Okinawa Spinach ( Gyunura Crepidioides) where you can find Okinawans in Japan (hence the name) planted this vegetable which acts as ornamental ground cover and edible plant! C'est une géniale idée! There are 2 varieties (a) Dark green on top and purple on the bottom (b) Brighter Green on both sides but has milder taste. For this gorgeous vegetable I cooked like Chan Coi with eggs but I added toasted sesame for extra texture. This vegetable is also delicious when eat raw in salad or with sambals to maximise the intake of its medicinal properties.

Bunch of Okinawan Red Spinach.

Closer look of the Handama or Okinawan Spinach. I love the colour purple on this plant.

Another similarity with this plant is the Chan Cai, Shan Tsoi, Slippery Vegetable, Poi or Malabar Spinach (It's not spinach but of Basellaceae family.) I had grown this Malabar Spinach (Red Stem) aka Tsuru Murasaki before from seeds in large rectangular boxes; there are 2 species - Malabar Green Stem and Malabar Red Stem. Keep the seeds when they are dried so that you can replant fresh batch. It's a fast thriving vegetable in warm/hot climates :-) You need to fix trellis around this plant to give support to the stalks... pity I don't see any Giant's castle above the clouds with golden goose because they were trimmed ✄ down to feed my stomach first! ☺

There's a warning though when you cook such vegetable, the beautiful purple/red color 'leaks' out into the juice or gravy and you won't see the color purple/red at all after cooking (pictured above ☹.)

Handama (Okinawan Spinach) With Scrambled Eggs and White Sesame
Serve 2-3

250 g Handama/Okinawan Spinach
2 nos Eggs
2 cloves Garlic - minced (optional)
1/2 pc Carrot - julienned
1 tbl Sesame Oil
2 tbl White Sesame Seeds - toasted until golden brown
1 cup Chicken Stock
Cooking Oil


1. Wash the vegetables; Discard any spoilt or wilted leaves - we use only the leaves, tender shoots and stems. Set aside.
2. In a wok/deep pan, heat some cooking oil until it's really hot; Add in the minced garlic, stir a bit to avoid burning. Add in the carrot and Okinawan spinach. Give a quick stir.

Note: Wok needs to be hot to achieve quick stir-fry process because we don't want to destroy the vitamins and if you cook too long, it will become mushy.

3. Make a hole in the centre of the wok, crack the eggs into the centre. When the eggs start to turn opaque, stir the mixture with spatula to break apart the cooked egg mixture (remember the wok is very hot, so you have to work fast.)
4. Pour in the chicken stock and stir to mx all the egg mixture with the vegetable.
5. Dish out on a serving plate. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.
6. Spoon the sesame oil around the vegetable and serve hot.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did... Enjoy!


  1. I've never seen this plant before but the colour reminded me a bit of beetroot leaves but of course they are much bigger and maybe it tastes completely different. Anyway your dish sounds delicious.

  2. Those greens really do look special--what a beautiful color! The ingredients of this dish seem so simple but the flavors I am sure tell a much different story. I recently moved to an area which is New York's second China Town and I am thinking now that I have to explore the dozens of Asian markets in the area to pick up some interesting ingredients.

  3. Hi Ivy, yes you're right about the beetroot leaves! They are almost identical with their intense colours. I love Beetroot leaves as well. Each time I bought beetroots, I tried to find those with shoots/leaves still intact so that I could let the shoots grow if I don't use the beetroots that soon :-D

  4. Hi Maria,

    Oh my, I can't wait to learn what you will discover in NY Chinatown! Which means more new developments from you.. :-P

  5. Wow Pixen, what an amazing looking vegetable! I've never seen anything like it. :)

  6. Hi Tom... yes, it's a beautiful plant. When I saw it, I imagined having them in my garden-when the wind blows, I will have dark green patch and when its blown another direction, I will have purple ground :-D When I'm hungry, I just pluck and cook them :-P

  7. I love Okinawa Red Spinach....they just are special!!:D
    These are the rare breeds we get over here though:)

  8. They are nice, aren't they. I had a similar vegetable in Hong Kong like that but they are not spinach. My mom cooked them with garlic. You dish looks so yummy !

  9. I don't think I've ever run across this vegetable before. It's funny, isn't it -- when in doubt, call a leafy green (or purple) spinach. Dish looks yummy and I'd love to try this vegetable sometime.

  10. I bought the plant at a farmers market in Santa Monica, CA when I tasted the leaf. It has an unusual flavor with a hint of seaweed but is reportedly nutritious. Can I trim the leaves to eat and will the plant regrow like basil leaves? Any growing hints will be appreciated.

  11. Anonymous ~ I learnt from friends and infos that it does root from the nodes and spread vastly on grounds. It's mostly grow from cuttings than left to grow naturally from seeds it reverts to the original all green plant and loses the beautiful purple underside of the leaves but some people claimed that it taste milder than cuttings. Try to root the cuttings in quality water for several days and replant in another pot or ground. Don't forget to change the water very couple of days.

    You can check this link :

    Good luck :-) Don't forget to send me photos when they grew ok :-)

    1. Neat plant! We just got some - will be interesting to try it.

      "... it reverts to the original all green plant and loses the beautiful purple underside of the leaves..."

      I'm beginning to suspect this is a but if an urban legend - can anyone point to an authoritative source for this information? I've seen this mentioned on random websites, but it's probably been copy & pasted, and who knows where it originally started. Most reliable sites that I could find listed gynura bicolor as non-toxic.

    2. Hi Anonymous,

      I fried this plant several times early 2013 and I discovered that to maintain the purple side, you need to cook the Okinawa Spinach in very high temperature heated deep pan or wok. That means your wok is smoking hot when you add in the oil for quick stir-fry. When fast cooking I meant REALLY FAST stir-fry! I also did this method with Red Spinach and I'm truly happy that the Red Spinach's color didn't leeched out from the leaves that much even the gravy turned blood red :-)

      Oh, one thing I did this time was to wash/soak Okinawa Spinach in Vinegar (I always use Rice Vinegar /Apple Cider Vinegar) and Sea salt solution between 15 min-30 min to get rid of impurities. Maybe by chance it works because of the vinegar just like when cooking Red Cabbage?

  12. Hi!
    I planted Okinawa spinach in my garden last year in Florida, and have enjoyed putting the leaves in salads. I also love the beautiful colors in the garden. It died back in the winter but has come back again in the spring. Thanks for your recipe.

  13. That looks really good! I hope that it tasted as good as it looks! :) Do you know how long to cook it?

  14. Salisbury Homes... with a very hot pan or wok, you only need less than 1 minute to cook this stir-fried dish provided you prepare the ingredients mise en place. Thank you for the comment :-)

  15. Thanks for the recipe! An age 90-something customer at my husband's store brought him a start of this after they chatted about gardening. It's growing like crazy here in St. Petersburg, Florida, and we love it. Great color for a salad, but we haven't cooked with it yet. (I take a salad to work almost every day.) So I can't wait to try this dish, especially since my 16-year-old LOVES Asian food.

  16. Hello Anonymus (Aug, 17, 2012)

    Thank you for visiting :-) Yes, it's a great looking plant and definitely a talk at the table :) A must try is adding some into your pasta. What I did was to tear some and threw into the pasta (cooked according to package) that already been stir-fried with some seafood, shoyu/temari, grounded white peppercorn to taste at 1-2 minutes before dishing out Sprinkle with crumbled toasted Nori/bonito flakes and sesame seeds. It's a fast and simple pasta dish Japanese style :-D. Do let me know how it turns out ;-)


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