The best part about plants and herbs is that not only do they help to enhance the taste of your dish, but also come along with plenty of health benefits attached to them. And this beautifully multi-purpose plant, known as pandan, is one of many such plants.
From what is pandan and how to use it in your food to ways to utilise for your health, this is your ultimate guide to make great use of this amazing plant!
What is pandan?
Let’s jump to the basics first.
Pandan is a tropical plant in the Pandanus genus and is cultivated extensively throughout Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
It has a characteristic and sweet aroma and is of a vibrant green shade and even holds certain medicinal properties, as a result of which, it used to be an immensely helpful ingredient in traditional medicine. And due to its pleasant aroma, it is also often used in the perfume industry and as an air freshener.
What does pandan taste like?
The darker and deeper the shade of green is of the pandan leaves, the greater their flavour is. The taste of this tropical plant is inclined more towards the sweeter side with a hint of both rose and coconut, and with a refreshing aroma. This is the major reason as to why pandan leaves tend to spark up quite a strong flavour in whatever dish they are utilised in.
However, pandan extract, i.e., the juice that comes out of its leaves, is very bitter because of the extract being concentrated with little water in it; it still is used in many ways.
How do you use it in your food?
It’s versatility, and strong flavour makes Pandan an extremely useful ingredient and can be used in a variety of dishes. And here’s how:
- One of the best and the most common ways to make good use of pandan leaves is to infuse a couple of them to rice before cooking it.
What you need to do is, tie a knot to a couple of pandan leaves and put them in the vessel you are cooking the rice in and let it sit for some time so that the rice absorbs its flavour and aroma. And as the rice is cooked, remove the leaves before serving.
Here’s a fun fact for you, in North of India, pandan leaves are referred to as Annapurna leaves and are even used as a substitute for dishes, and the food is served directly on these!
- Yet another beautiful way to infuse pandan leaves in your food is to use them to wrap your chicken. Yes, pandan wrapped chicken is very much a thing.
Place your marinated boneless chicken in pandan leaves and wrap them up. After that fry them together till the leaves start to turn a shade of brownish-gold and serve the dish with some hot dipping sauce. Voila, you now have a delicious chicken dish at your hand!
You can even use pandan leaves to wrap other kinds of meat as well as fish.
- You can even use dried pandan leaves by topping or sprinkling them like any other herb or spice to enhance the flavour of your dish.
- As pandan leaves tend to produce an enthralling aroma and delicious taste, these match amazingly with desserts as they provide sweet dishes with a sweet and floral essence.
Some desserts you can cook with the fusion of pandan leaves include sticky rice, rice pudding, pandan custard, sweet rice layer cake, etc…
- You could even add a leaf or two of pandan to your curries and sauces to instantly enhance the flavour of your dish.
- Pandan leaves also match up greatly with ingredients like coconut milk, lemongrass, turmeric, etc., and can even be used as a substitute for vanilla essence.
Besides serving as an extraordinary kitchen ingredient, pandan also holds numerous health benefits which will have you even more impressed!
Pandan leaves consist of natural healing properties which is why these have been used in several ways to improve one’s health for decades.
You can make tea by boiling the roots and leaves of the plant and that will help you monumentally with problems such as headaches, cramps, chest pains, and spasms. It even works wonders for lowering your blood pressure to a certain extent.
It also helps in boosting your immune system as it is working as a great source of both vitamins as well as of antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and even several minerals.
And that is not even the best part! Pandan leaves also have several benefits for your skin; dried and crushed pandan leaves are often used to treat sunburns and other such skin problems, thereby helping your skin with minor burns as the leaves tend to act as a cooling ingredient.
Its juice and extract can even be utilised as an essential oil.
How to store pandan?
Storage of pandan leaves is extremely hassle-free; all you have to do is wrap them up in a damp paper towel, refrigerate and store them along with your other vegetables, and you can thus keep them for about 4 days.
And if you want to increase the shelf life of these leaves, then you would be glad to know that pandan leaves can be frozen too! Place them on a baking sheet in one layer and freeze for some time. After that, store these leaves in a ziplock bag and return them to the freezer. This way, they can last for as long as about six months!
If you have made a paste out of pandan leaves, then you can refrigerate it and it can then be used for about a couple weeks more. Besides that, you can store powders or extracts made out of dried pandan leaves anywhere in a dry area like your pantry.
So, what are you waiting for? Get this amazing and incredibly useful plant now and make your life easier!