For those of us who live in the west we may not be familiar with Pandan. But if you live here in Thailand, or in any other Southeast Asian country you’ve probably heard of it, cooked with it and eaten it. Just a few days ago, my wife made a tea from Pandan leaves. Boiling the leaves and using the extract is common here and is mainly used in desserts giving it a certain flavor and color. As a rule I don’t usually eat desserts that are green—I mean, it’s just not done, right? Green is for those things that some of us eat as a side dish. Vegetables I think they call them.
I’m not going to go all science on you—you can look that up yourself if you’re really interested in what exactly Pandan is. Let’s just say it’s a leaf, and it grows in the ground, and if you crush it up and mix a bit of water in it and let it sit for an hour or so, you can strain it with muslin cloth and gather the extract. Ten or so leaves crushed up with about three tablespoons of water will do the trick.
I can’t describe the flavor and some say it’s a bit ‘woody,’ ‘grassy,’ and ‘nutty.’ To the western palette it’s a bit indescribable. It’s what vanilla is to the western world, so think vanilla going in, but remember that it taste nothing like it. As we would use vanilla to flavor certain desserts, take muffins for example, in Southeast Asia they would use Pandan.
I hope you’re not too confused.
Pandan is usually steeped in coconut milk and then added to desserts. So, thinking along those lines I decided to try a Coconut Pandan muffin creation. The recipe is on the web and it’s not bad.
My Thai wife enjoyed it, preferring it to the chocolate chip muffins that I make. That about says it all, Pandan over chocolate chips, who would have guessed, and it shows you where I’m coming from and the cultural differences regarding food that I live with day in and day out here in Thailand.
Pandan Coconut Muffins
1 ½ cup flour
100 ml coconut milk
150 ml water
70 ml oil
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon Pandan extract
Mix your liquids, egg, water, coconut milk, and oil and Pandan extract. Add the sugar and mix well. Sift the flour and add to the mixture and then add the baking powder last. Cook for about 20-25 minutes at 170 C.