The aroma of pandan (pandanus amaryllifolius belonging to the screwpine genus) is unmistakably Asian and grips me to familiarity. Happy thoughts came about from my childhood as I remember the smell of pandan permeating the kitchen when rice was cooking in my parents' house. In Asian cooking, a knot of pandan leaf is used to give fragrance & flavor to the rice. It has a distinguishing scent that I cannot pinpoint nor even come close to describing. It is reminiscent of fresh grass with a floral hint and an earthy tone. Mmmm, maybe I'm not the world's best describer but believe me, it has a good aroma.
I had been on a roller coaster searching for these leaves the past days that when I walked out of the Esquilino Market in Rome (see previous post), I couldn't believe that I had these leaves in my bag. I purchased a lot of Asian vegetables and fruits that you would think that I feed 10 kids in my family. Thirteen years of craving, what better excuse can I give?
When I moved here from the Philippines thirteen years ago, I started a mission to start a potted tropical garden. Being stripped from familiar surroundings, I wondered if I could create my own tropical surroundings to give me comfort from spurts of homesickness. Pandanus amaryllifolius was one of my failed experiments in planting from seeds. I gave up and moved on to other projects. But now and then, I still longed to have this smell lingering in my kitchen.
The scent of pandan leaves develops only about two days upon drying of the fresh leaves. More than that, the flavor and scent slowly escapes. There are the little bottles of pandan extract available in the market but I've read that it contains chemical food coloring which is a shame because pandan leaves already contain natural vivid green coloring. Here is a short, but very informative page about the pandan leaves.
When I was asked what I will do with these leaves, I replied, make some crepes and cook them with rice, just like how I remember the smell of the steaming rice when I was a child. If there was a scent I would bottle, it would be this one (among other foodie smells). As soon as I plopped the vegetables on the kitchen counter, I immediately washed and knotted a leaf to go with the rice I was going to cook.
I should have dubbed this week's (and perhaps next week's too) posts "Revisiting Childhood Home Cooking". So, excuse my non-stop Asian dishes. Fresh ingredients have to come first and those are what I have at the moment. I had been cooking a lot of simple pasta too because my kids don't eat anything with coconut and I don't want to overwhelm them with Asian dishes. The wrinkling of their noses over the unfamiliar scents is already enough as a silent complaint. Sigh.
Pandan and coconut are partners that are tied together. They go so well together that it is just natural to put them together in one recipe. So the pandan crepe in my mind should have a coconut filling. This is something I still remember from a dessert in Malaysia that remained in my memory. I don't remember its name anymore nor its exact taste. I just remembered that I loved it. Quick research took me back to memory lane when I saw the Malaysian Dadar Gulung (pandan crepe with coconut filling) but I got more attracted to Adora's Box's version of creamy coconut filling.
I am embarrassed to admit that I ate 4 crepes in one sitting and my husband ate the other 4. They were so good!
I made some modifications to the original recipe to adapt to my taste. I replaced the regular milk & condensed milk to almond milk in the filling. I also added toasted black sesame seeds and panela sugar to the sprinkles and which gave a rounder taste. Since I took away the condensed milk, I replaced its sweetness with the raw panela sugar sprinkle. Replace it with muscovado or any cane sugar if you cannot find it. Lastly, I used Ira of Cooking Tackle's recipe in extracting pandan juice instead of boiling the pandan leaves and adding food coloring. I used much more pandan leaves but I was able to get the desired color and taste.
If ever you make these crepes, do tell me how many you ate. You might even eat more than I did.
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Pandan ExtractOriginal Pandan Extract recipe of Cooking Tackle
- 18 fresh pandan leaves (thawed if frozen), washed
- 1/3 cup water
- Cut the leaves in short pieces using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife.
- Put them in a blender plus the water. Blend until the leaves are chopped very finely.
- Pour contents through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Discard the leaves.
- Keep the extract in a sealed bottle. It will last in the fridge for one week. Do not freeze.
Coconut Pandan CrepesInspired by the Buco Pandan Crepe recipe of Adora's Box
Makes 8 crepes
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup fresh pandan extract (I added 2/3 cup of water to the 1/3 cup of extract that I did.)
- 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk.)
- 1 cup plain flour
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon butter for the crepe pan
- Mix all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Let it rest for at least half an hour.
- Warm up a crepe skillet with the 1/2 teaspoon of butter. Melt butter and swirl around the skillet to distribute it.
- Ladle the batter in the pan. Distribute the batter thinly by turning the skillet.
- Cook both sides.
- Repeat until you finish the batter. You should be able to make at least 8 crepes.
- 1 cup shredded coconut meat
- 3/4 cup milk (I substituted this with almond milk.)
- 1/2 cup condensed milk (Again, I substituted this with almond milk.)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon corn flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Whisk together corn flour, milk and egg yolks in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour in a saucepan and add the coconut meat.
- Bring to a boil while stirring constantly on low heat.
- Simmer until thick.
- Take away from the heat and add butter. Stir.
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut (farina di cocco)
- 1/8 cup black sesame seeds (also white)
- panela sugar, amount depends on you
- On low flame, toast dessicated coconut and sesame seeds in a dry pan until the coconut turns light brown.
To Assemble the Crepes:
- Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in a crepe. Roll to close the crepes.
- Sprinkle with the toasted coconut & sesame seeds then sprinkle with panela sugar.