Sadao leaves are small to medium in size and are elongated and oval to lanceolate in shape. The green leaves are thin and tear easily and have a smooth texture. The edges of the leaf can vary with some jagged spots mixed with flat sides. The leaves grow on small, but thick stems and each stem can grow 5-15 leaflets. Sadao leaves are tender and have a very bitter taste. The sadao plant also bears fragrant white flowers that are edible and offer a bitter, green flavor when cooked.
Sadao leaves are available year-round.
Sadao leaves, botanically classified as Azadirachta indica var. siamensis Valeton, are found on a fast-growing evergreen that can reach up to twenty-three meters in height and are members of the Meliaceae, or mahogany family. Also known as the Thai or Siamese neem tree, Sadao leaves are a variety of neem and are commonly found growing in the wild along roadsides in Thailand. The young leaves and flowers are traditionally cooked and consumed as a vegetable and are also used in tonics as preventative medicine.
Sadao leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants such as rutin and quercetin.
Sadao leaves are best suited for cooked applications such as boiling, sautéing, or stir-frying. The young leaves are often parboiled or pickled and eaten as an accompaniment to other dishes. Sadao leaves are also traditionally served with Nam Pla Wan, which is a Thai dipping sauce that uses tamarind juice, fish sauce, dried chilis, shallots, and palm sugar. This sweet sauce helps cut the bitterness of the Sadao leaves to create a sweet and sour, savory combination. Sadao leaves pair well with meats such as chicken, pork, beef, and white fish, tomatoes, aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and onions, fish sauce, and other sweet dipping sauces. Sadao leaves will keep up to a week when stored fresh in the refrigerator.