Known for its vivid green hue and distinct perfume, pandan is an essential ingredient in the kitchens of Southeast Asia. The blade-shaped pandan leaves add their gentle fragrance, vibrant colour and nutty flavour to a range of desserts, drinks and savoury dishes. Known as the ‘vanilla of Southeast Asia’, this aromatic herb pops up in everything from Malaysian desserts and nasi lemak to Thai sticky rice and sweet Indonesian broths, so you’re never short of inspiration when cooking with pandan leaves.
Along with the sublime flavour and fragrance they impart, pandan leaves have a host of health benefits. Pandan leaves can reportledly aid in paid relief, reduce cramps and improve skin conditions.
In Malaysia, pandan forms part of a mouthwatering trio of ingredients that formt the basis of many desserts, along with coconut and palm sugar. Try one of these recipes to discover why pandan leaves truly are the vanilla of Southeast Asia.
When the mercury soars in Malaysia, locals line up for a mid-afternoon bowl of cendol. This refreshing dessert features cendol noodles made from green bean flour, tapioca and rice flour, flavoured and coloured with pandan concentrate. The chewy noodles are topped with a palm sugar syrup, coconut milk and crushed ice for a chilled respite from the heat.
A popular treat in Singapore and Malaysia, pandan chiffon cake is a feather-light cake, similar to a sponge cake, flavoured with pandan juice or paste. Serve it with a glass of teh tarik for the ultimate afternoon pick-me-up.
One of our favourite Malaysian desserts is onde-onde. These plump little pandan dumplings are filled with palm sugar, which turns into a molten sauce when the dumplings are boiled. Roll them in shredded coconut before popping them in your mouth ¬– you won’t be able to stop at one!
Inspired by Malaysia’s layered kuih sweets, this steamed pandan and coconut cake makes a pretty centrepiece for a high tea or baby shower.
fresh pandan leaves are available at selected markets and greengrocers, or visit your local Asian supermarket for frozen or dried pandan leaves.
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