A popular cooking ingredient from South east Asia, pandan leaves (known as daun pandan in Malay) are widely known for their positive culinary benefits. The leaf is an important ingredient of thai recipes like bai toey and khanom chan and thai curry. This bright green coloured shrub (a tropical plant) is loved for the sweet aroma compound that it puts in dishes prepared with it, which appeals to people’s appetites. The fresh pandan leaves are generally used as condiments in the preparation of both daily traditional and ceremonial meals. In fact, some drinks (like flavored coconut milk) and sweets like Buko Pandan are made with these leaves for their strong pandan flavors.
However, fresh pandan leaves are not only used as culinary ingredients (mostly used as Pandan paste) but are also used for spiritual and medicinal purposes in various Southeast Asian countries too.
What are Pandan Leaves?
Pandanus amaryllifolius is a green leafy shrub belonging to the Pandanus genus. This tropical plant can grow up to 2 meters tall, has round stems and narrow blade-like bright green leaves. Sometimes, people plant their own pandan leaves in their gardens for easier and regular supply. Cooking with fresh Pandan leaves will leave around the sweet-smelling attractive aroma that’s produced when leaves are crushed or cut. Specifically used in Thai Cooking, Pandan leaves are sometimes referred to as “the vanilla of Southeast Asian cooking”, and is now gaining fast acceptance here in the United States too.
What are the Benefits of Pandan Leaves?
Pandan leaves have several benefits. Fresh leaves can be used for several things, especially for all types of cooking. The Pandan essence makes it a perfect additive when boiling basmati rice or even sticky rice. It can be used as wrapping (as a substitute to banana leaf) when preparing meat as it helps the meat to retain moisture and remain juicy and tender.
Pandan tea infused with various herbs is very popular for its health benefits and rich aroma.
These amazing leaves are also beneficial to the home and environment as its fragrance can be used optimally as a natural air freshener – even for cars.
Further, Pandan leaves are also traditionally used as insect repellants.
Pandan Leaves have great health benefits as it is used in preparing traditional medicine to treat several illnesses including;
1. Lowering high blood pressure
2. Helps with sensitive skin
3. Eliminate Dandruff and Hair Loss
4. Helps Weak Nerves
6. Increases Appetite
7. Mild Laxative (treats constipation) for Children
8. Helps to Detox Liver
9. Reduces fever and provides Pain Relief (headache, ear pain, chest pain, arthritis)
10. Helps with blood sugar management (diabetes)
Can you eat Pandan Leaves and How Does it taste?
Fresh leaves are tough, stringy and fibrous but also very thin. Their chewy nature makes them not exactly good for consumption alone. While Pandan leaves are an important ingredient of Asian cuisine, they are generally not eaten.
When eaten, however, the pandan leaf is a mouthful and leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Although some people do not mind the taste, pandan leaves don’t exactly have a favorable taste when consumed on its own.
Where can we buy Pandan Leaves in the U.S?
You can find the pandan plant for sale in several markets across the United States, especially in the Southeast asian vegetable markets. You can also find the dried leaves for sale on websites of various online stores like Amazon, Grocery Thai, etc.
Rhymba Hills products which contain Pandan Leaves are (please click on the product below to try):