The best of significant others finally came back from a very long work trip this week. It took him to a number of countries, but he was happily able to conclude the trip with a few days spent in Malaysia visiting family and friends. Among the things he brought back were a pandan chiffon cake and, given that last weekend was the Mid-Autumn Festival, a box of snow skin pandan mooncakes. Consequently, I decided to do a post on all the ways this wonderful flavoring can currently be found in our household.
One of my pandan plants (Pandanus amaryllifolius), flanked by a small pandan chiffon cake from Lavender, pandan kaya, a pandan snow skin mooncake, and three different kinds of pandan flavoring for baking
Different pandan flavorings for baking
A close-up of that snow skin pandan mooncake, on a Japanese mochi plate
Pandan was one of the first things about Malaysia that I fell in love with - apart of course from the best of significant others! - and it has become one of my favorite sweet flavorings. The aroma is a bit hard to describe, though it has been likened to that of basmati rice or freshly-baked bread. In its ubiquity in Malaysian sweets and pastries it is a bit like vanilla in many Western cuisine, though it is also used quite a bit in neighboring Southeast Asian cuisines. Traditionally, the fresh leaves are used, either by being cooked with the food and then removed or their juice being extracted and added to the food. The plant is not difficult to grow, as long as one can give it a fair amount of warmth and moisture - it is a wholly tropical plant and will not put up with any cold. However, one can also buy pandan extract or flavoring. In case you want to play around with either, here is the recipe I have used when making pandan chiffon cake from scratch.