What is Pandan Leaf?

Daun pandan is the Malaysian and Indonesian name for this fragrant leaf. Screwpine leaf was the name given by English traders who traveled to Asia. In Southeast Asia, pandan leaf is used to wrap chicken, meat, fish, and desserts before they are barbecued or steamed. They add distinct, sweet, floral-like notes to these products.

Malaysians, Indonesians, and Thais add the bruised leaves or its extract to flavor rice dishes and glutinous and tapioca-based desserts and puddings. The whole leaf is used to wrap chicken and other meats before they are grilled or barbecued Australian

Aborigines ate the globular, pineapple-sized fruits, destroying an irritating component by roasting them before chewing off the flesh.

The nineteenth century explorer Leichhardt discovered, much to his discomfort with a blistered tongue and violent diarroea, that the fruits could not be eaten without being first processed to neutralize their noxious properties. The increased popularity in Asian cuisine in many Western countries over the past decades has made pandan leaf a familiar and increasingly accessible ingredient..

Origin and Varieties

Screw pine is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. There are a few varieties of screw pine that differ in flavor and appearance, depending on their origin. The most aromatic types are from Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Kewra is the flower of the South Asian variety of screw pine.

Spice Description

Pandan leaf is long, thin, narrow, and green. It is sold fresh, frozen, or dried. The leaves and flowers also come as bright green extracts. Properties: the dried leaves are less fragrant than the fresh leaves. The leaves have to be bruised or boiled in order to release their flavor. The leaves have a roselike, almondy, and milky sweet, vanilla-like flavor. The dried leaves have no flavor. The flowers are golden yellow and have a fragrant, strong, and sweet aroma.

Because color is one of the key attributes of pandan leaf, it must be carefully dried to retain its bright-green appearance and unique fragrance. The leaves are then chopped into pieces large enough to remove from a dish after cooking, or powdered finely so the texture is no longer reedy and fibrous. Fresh whole leaves are either crushed or boiled to make an extract that is used to color cakes or confectionery.

Chemical Components

Pandan Leaf has low levels of essential oil, including 2- acetyl-1-pyrroline (which also gives the aroma in Thai and Basmati rice), styrene, linalool, and β-cayophyllene. It also contains piperidine-like alkaloids (pandamarine, pandamarilactones) that give screw pine its milky, floral-like taste.

Buying and Storing

Fresh pandan leaves are available from Asian grocery stores and some specialty produce retailers. The best way to store them is whole, in a plastic bag in the freezer. Pandan leaf powder can be bought from spice shops, however make sure it is bright-green when you buy it, and keep it stored away from light to retain its color.

Cooking with Pandan Leaf

The leaf is used in curries of Sri Lanka and in Malaysian, Balinese, and Thai cooking. It is commonly used as a flavoring and coloring in Malaysian and Singaporean cooking, especially in Malay dishes. The screw-pine or pandan leaves are tied in a knot and placed in soups or stews that are being cooked. The leaf is also bruised or raked with the tines of a fork to release its aroma, pounded to release its aromatic juice, or even boiled to obtain its flavor.

Pandan leaves are used as wrappers in Southeast Asian cooking to provide a distinct flavor to the foods. They are wrapped around chicken, pork, glutinous rice, fish, and desserts before grilling, roasting, barbecuing, or steaming. Pandan leaves also enhance the flavor of seasoned rices, puddings, beverages, and curries. Nasi lemak, nasi kuning, and nasi padang are some of the fragrant pandan-flavored rices eaten in Malaysia and Indonesia.

It pairs well with coconut milk, glutinous rice, lemongrass, milk, brown sugar, and turmeric. It also provides color to Indonesian, Thai, Malay- and Nonya-style glutinous rice-based desserts, candies, puddings, soups, and coconut drinks.

Screw-pine flower, which is more delicate and fragrant than the leaf, is used in North India to perfume biryanis. It goes well with rices, coconut, lemongrass, brown sugar, star anise, cumin, and nutmeg. Its extract, called kewra, is also commonly used to flavor Indian desserts such as rasgulla (cottage cheese in syrup), gulab jamun (fried cottage cheese in syrup), rasmalai (cottage cheese with condensed milk), cakes, and beverages. The commercially available pandan leaf extract is much too bright green and does not totally capture its true flavor and color profiles.

Spice Blends: nasi lemak blend, nasi kuning blend, biryani blend, kueh lapis blend, rendang blend, rasmalai blend, and gulab jamun blend.

Health Benifits  of Pandan Leaf

In India, screw-pine leaves are sacred to the Hindu God, Shiva. In many Indian villages, the leaves are also tossed into open wells to scent the drinking water.

Other Names

pandan leaf. It is also known as: kathey (Arabic) ketaky (Bengali chan heung lahn, chan xiang lan (Cantonese, Mandarin) skrupalm (Danish) pandan (Dutch) pandanus (French) schraubenpalme (German) pandanus (Hebrew) rampe (Hindi) |pandanuz (Hungarian) pandano (Italian) takonoki (Japanese) taey (Khmer) tay ban (Laotian) kaitha (Malayalam) daun pandan (Malaysian, Indonesian) skrupalme (Norwegian) pandano (Portuguese) rampe (Singhalese) pandano (Spanish) skruvpalm (Swedish) thazhai (Tamil) bai toey hom (Thai) and cay com nep (Vietnamese) Pandan flower—kewra or keora (Hindi, Punjabi).

Scientific Name

Pandanus (P) odoratissimus (North India);

P. amaryllifolius (Southeast Asia);

P. latifolius (Sri Lanka);

P. veitchii.

Family: Pandanaceae (screwpine family).

Photo by Weena Chiwangkul from Pexels