Have you ever visited Asia and experienced a very pleasant, bready and nutty aroma during a taxi ride? I know I have! When I asked the taxi uncle, “What is that smell?”, he replied with it’s “Pandan, it keeps away the cockroaches” with smile on his face.
Pandanus amaryllifolius is a tropical plant/ bush grass which is publicly known as pandan. Pandan contains an aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which gives it a typical smell to white bread, jasmine rice, basmati rice as well as many other raw ingredients. Pandan is commonly used in the East, as vanilla is used in the West. It is prized for its exotic bouquet; vanilla, grassy, bready, nutty notes with hints of green coconut. It is also one of the most versatile tool in the Asian kitchen pantry.
Pandan leaves are commonly used to enhance the flavour of popular dishes across Bangladesh, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian and many other countries for its aroma. If you do not live in these countries, you will still be able to find pandan in Asian grocers in either dry or frozen form. But obviously fresh is the best :).
You can easily steep pandan into water to be used to create sugar syrup or infused spirits.
To give an example I have infused bourbon with pandan in a 1:10 ratio for 24 hours, after which I strained the pandan and used it as a “Pandan bourbon” infusion in a cocktail called Yakun Kaya.
50 ml Pandan infused bourbon
5 ml Almond syrup
3 dashes house made Coffee bitters
Combine all ingredients in mixing glass, stir 10 to 15 times and strain over a large ice cube into a rocks glass.
Bartenders note: “Go wild with pandan. It is an amazing ingredients to work with.”