Tuesday, April 26

Pandan whatio?

In my post on Bubbleology last week, I mentioned an ingredient called 'pandan' but failed to elaborate on what it was. In case you were wondering, I fortunately happen to have secured a bunch of pandan leaves to show you.

Pandan leaves

Meet pandanus amaryllifolius, a well-known face in the South East Asian food circuit. Usually appearing at foodie taste parties alongside coconut milk, pandan's role is to give dishes a heady scent and flavours a long finish. It's very distinct as a flavour, though, so it escapes comparisons to other foods. I can't say it's anything like basil or coriander or curry leaf or lemongrass. However, if you try to imagine an open field or a forest in South East Asia with lush vegetation, you might be able to guess at the taste of pandan. In fact, the closest I can get to describing pandan's scent is this: it's what the tropical rainforest in Singapore smells like after a heavy rain shower.


Pandan has some pretty diverse uses, and dishes featuring this leaf include kaya (a Singaporean/Malaysian coconut custard concoction that's spread on toast), pandan chicken from Thailand (succulent pieces of chicken wrapped in woven pandan leaves), Hainanese chicken rice (the pandan is added to the cooking liquid for the rice), and various Nyonya kueh (cakes and sweets that are specialties of the Straits Chinese).

I made a batch of kaya today - this is the reason I have pandan to photograph - from a recipe at Beyond the Plate. Here is a link to Danielle's recipe for kaya toast. And here are some of my photos of the process.

The custardy mix being double-boiled

The finished product

I should say, I chickened out of using fresh coconut milk and just used a nice canned version. For about two minutes, I did think about buying a whole coconut at the supermarket to extract the milk, but then I realised that: (a) I don't have a meat cleaver to cut it open with; and (b) I have no idea where to get one of those swan-shaped wooden-metal compound thingies used on the Subcontinent to grate the flesh of the coconut from inside the half-shells.

I was very happy with the kaya, but I needed just two leaves for the recipe. So, I now have a bunch of at least 20 or 30 leaves left in the fridge! If anyone fancies picking it up from me in Central London (for free), give me a shout. Otherwise, I'll be weaving pandan chicken packets for the rest of the week.

Thanks, Danielle at Beyond the Plate, for the recipe. Frangelico's verdict on the kaya toast: crazily delicious!

Love

Truffle

7 comments:

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

Wow! You made Kaya toast in London! Truly commendable. I would like to add that the closest thing the West has to the flavor of Pandan (in my opinion) is vanilla - creamy, sweet, with a fullness, a nuttiness that just has to be tasted to be understood.

I might have to try out this recipe this weekend. Although, no chance of getting Pandan in these parts. Might have to try it with vanilla!

Best,
Cinnamon

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

Try the recipe! It's very yummy. Although I might reduce the amount of sugar, at least by 1/4.

Would be interesting to hear how it goes with vanilla! Then you'll have a vanilla coconut custard. I'm sure that'd be good for making some shortbread-based tarts or something.

Love

Truffle

I'm So Fancy said...

Where does one buy such a thing? Would it make a good soup flavouring?

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

Frau Fancy: One can buy pandan in Chinatown (at either Loon Fung or New Loon Moon supermarkets). Other East Asian groceries might stock it too, but I haven't tried (e.g. Wing Yip has 'superstores' in Croydon and Staples Corner).

As for soup flavouring, that's a very good question! I myself can't recall having come across it in a soup before, but I did see some mentions on the internet of using it in chicken soup. I'd be tempted to try tearing up a leaf and knotting it up as a bouquet garni of sorts to add to a stock for chicken soup, but as it's quite experimental, beware of the results! Generally, my experience is that pandan goes well with coconut and/or sweetened savouries.

Cinnamon - any thoughts?

Truffle

Mañana Mama said...

Like the rainforest after a downpour? Wow, cool...can we try kaya toast the next time we come to Trungelico Cafe? That is, if you've managed to repair the damage from the first visit :)

Danielle said...

Yay! Glad you liked the recipe, and thanks for the detailed post about Pandan and its uses :) I'm glad you managed to find the fresh leaves in London!

Cinnamon and Truffle said...

Mama - definitely welcome to some kaya at ours! Will have to be quick though... ;)

Hi Danielle! Yep, sulineats pointed me to Chinatown, and I managed to find it there. Was quite surprised, as I didn't think it was going to be a popular ingredient in London. Thanks again for the recipe!

Truffle

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