Pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius – screwpine pandanus) is a type of plant that grows in tropical areas of Asia. Pandan leaves have a sweet, unique flavour that is commonly used in Southeast-Asian countries to enhance both desserts and savoury dishes. The leaves are long and bright green, and when pounded or ground, they lend a sweet taste and aroma to many Thai desserts and some drinks.
They have a nutty, botanical fragrance which enhances the flavour of Indonesian, Singaporean, Filipino, Malaysian, Thai, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and Burmese foods, especially rice dishes and cakes.
Where to Buy Pandan
- Pandan leaves can be purchased at your local Asian food store, and may be bought fresh or, more likely, frozen.
- Pandan also comes in a ready-to-use paste – you can find it also at most Asian food stores and larger supermarkets. One bottle lasts a long time, as the paste is highly concentrated.
How to Store Pandan
- You can store fresh leaves in a plastic bag in the vegetable section of your refrigerator for up to four days.
- For longer storage, place leaves in flat layers on baking sheets and freeze. Place frozen leaves in freezer storage bags and store up to 6 months.
Using Pandan Leaves
- The leaves are sometimes steeped in coconut milk, which is then added to the dish.
- They may be tied in a bunch and cooked with the food.
- They may also be woven into a basket which is used as a pot for cooking rice.
- Pandan chicken, or gai ob bai toey, is a Thai dish with chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and fried.
- The leaves are also used as a flavouring for desserts such as pandan cake and sweet beverages.
- Also, Filipinos use pandan as a flavouring in buko pandan salad.
- To create a paste out of pandan leaves which you can then use for a variety of recipes, cut leaves into 2cm pieces and place in a pot on the stove together with ½ cup water (put as many pieces in as will fit). Boil until leaves are soft (some of the water will evaporate), then process water and leaves together in a food processor to create a paste.
Other Culinary Uses
Place several leaves on top of each other and tie in a knot to hold them together. Add this to a rice pot to add a subtle pandan flavour to your rice.
Pandan has a very special taste that marries beautifully with coconut milk – there’s nothing quite like it!
A family member, Pandanus tectorius is commonly found in Hawaii where the leaves are used for making mats, hats, mats, bowls and other garments. The sections of the fruits are sometimes made into leis (although it is bad luck to wear it for important occasions).
Substitutes for Pandan
- Pandan flavouring or essence
- Green food colouring and vanilla