Sunday, 1 March 2009

GLOSSARY: PANDANUS/PANDAN LEAF


The edible Pandanus Leaf (Pandanus amaryllifolius) or commonly know as PANDAN, is a leaf that is used extensively in South Asian (Sri Lanka and India) and Southeast Asian (predominantly in Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian and Thai) cooking. The leaves are used in both savoury and sweet dishes.

PANDAN leaves are used in Southeast Asian cooking to add a distinct aroma to rice and curry dishes such as NASI LEMAK, kaya (a coconut jam) and desserts such as PANDAN cake. PANDAN leaf can be used as a complement to chocolate in many dishes, such as ice cream. If using whole, fresh leaves are typically torn into strips, tied in a knot to facilitate removal, placed in the cooking liquid and then removed at the end of cooking. It can also be ground with some water in a blender to extract the juice as flavouring for desserts and to make PANDAN cake.

In Thailand, pieces of marinated chicken are enclosed in the PANDAN leaf and grilled or deep fried. In the Southeast Asian countries, the leaves are pounded and strained (or blended with a little water) to yield flavour and colour for cakes and sweets.

Kewra which is popular in the Indian sub continent, is distilled from the Pandanus flower, and is used to flavor drinks and desserts in Indian cuisine.

The PANDAN flavour is delicate, and as important to Asians as vanilla is to Westerners. In Canberra, you can find fresh and/or frozen PANDAN leaves at most oriental grocers. I usually get my PANDAN leaves fresh from LAE Grocers, Southlands Shopping Centre in Mawson, Woden. I then freeze the leaves whole, in a plactic bag for later use.


To make PANDAN flavoured desserts, the PANDAN leaves are usually shredded and are either pounded or blended in a blender with some water to obtain its juice which is then used as the flavouring. Nowadays, there are PANDAN paste and PANDAN essence that can be used instead and are sold at most Asian grocers. The PANDAN paste comes complete with the green colouring of the PANDAN and is used to make Asian desserts that are traditionally green. If you can't find PANDAN paste, subsitute with PANDAN essence and add a few drops of green food colouring to get the same results. You can find Kewra at all Indian grocers in Canberra.

The non edible variety of PANDAN is also used for handicrafts in Malaysia. Craftswomen collect the PANDAN leaves from plants in the wild. The young leaves are sliced in fine strips and sorted for further processing. Later, the weavers will produce basic pandan mats of standard size or roll the leaves into PANDAN ropes for other designs. This is followed by the coloring process, in which the pandan mats are placed in drums with water-based colors. After drying, the colored mats are shaped into the final product, for instance a place mat or a jewelry box. Final color touch-ups are applied to assure a product of high quality. The whole process from harvesting of raw materials to finished product is handled by craftswomen, making this a truly community-based handicraft product.

4 comments:

Dora said...

My chef has grown one pot of pandan leaves which she uses for making dessert soups. ;)

VG said...

Really? My pandan plant is still too young to harvest. I am hoping that next summer and beyond, I won't have to buy pandan anymore. Here's hoping.

Cathryn said...

I live in Melbourne. Where did u gals get ur pandan plants? I've only seen it sold in cut up leaves w/o the roots in Springvale. Never seen 1 for sale with roots. Been looking in eBay n no1 can supply it to Oz.

VG said...

Hi Cathryn

I got my pandan plant through mail order from a nursery in Queensland. The website is:
http://www.allrareherbs.com.au/

The owner's name is Steven and he is really nice. He has numerous asian herbs and spices and I have bought curry tree plant, turmeric, galangal and ginger from him and they are thriving. Mind you, I grow them in a hot house during winter. It is too cold where you and I are for them to be left 'out' during winter. The frost is their number one enemy.

My pandan plant is currently in a pot and it is taken into the house at night from mid autum to mid spring.

You may have to wait for spring for your plant but you never know; Steven may still have some available. Steven's contact is on his website.

BTW and FYI, Dora is based in Singapore where the pandan is native and it is ideal climate for its growth.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any more info or tips on growing. I can also be contacted via e-mail. Ciao.