Pandanus, a plant that wakes up gastronomy

The “Dadar Gulung” with Pandanus (Balinese green pancakes) – Photo: Lucas Heitz, the curious gardener.

The edible Pandanus, botanical name Pandanus amaryllifolius is a traditional tropical aromatic plant from Asian gastronomy, especially in Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma. Sometimes called “Pandan”, this upright growing perennial has long fragrant leaves, with a subtle flavor of vanilla almond and freshly cut grass. Very trendy nowadays, many American but also British chefs use Pandanus in their cooking, especially in pancakes, cakes and ice cream. The famous and much talked about English chef Nigella Lawson declared it to be the “new matcha”!

How is Pandanus used in the kitchen?

The leaves are freshly cooked to obtain a juice. This juice is mainly used as a flavor enhancer in culinary preparations, especially in glutinous rice dishes, or in the form of drinks or sweets. In addition to aroma, pandanus leaves also give food a green color. This natural dye is mainly used in the production of “Dadar Gulung”, the famous Balinese green pancakes. It is also possible to add pandanus juice to your recipes for milkshakes, rice pudding or cupcakes.

Another option is that you can also knot the fresh Pandanus leaf directly before putting it in a cake or pie batter, as you would with vanilla. It is also possible to make small papillotes with the Pandanus from the leaves to give flavor and tenderness to meat during cooking, especially with chicken and fish.

Other traditional uses of Pandanus!

In addition to food uses, pandanus leaves are used to make pretty little baskets or woven containers. Also, it is not uncommon to find leaves of the plant in hives in Southeast Asia, as the fragrant leaves of pandanus have a repellent effect on insects, especially cockroaches.

How to grow Pandanus at home?

For cultivation, this tropical perennial, which does not grow more than one meter in height as an adult, appreciates both sunny exposure and rich, cool and well-drained soil. Because it is not a rustic plant, it is recommended to grow it in a pot to be able to bring it indoors during the winter. Indoor or greenhouse cultivation of this plant is possible all year round.