Asian ingredients can confuse with all the various names in their native languages & then the English term(s) for them.

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This afternoon, Phu emailed asking for the English name for lá dứa, a common southern Viet ingredient. They’re called pandan leaf in English. They’re also called screwpine leaf, which isn’t very nice sounding!

Dứa is also the name for pinetáo in Vietnamese and I once caught my father explaining to lớn my non-Viet husband that lá dứa were the leaves of the pineapple. That’s wrong, Daddy. Stop. They’re not related! A pretty full listing of names for pandan is at wikipedia.com.

Pandan leaves (Pandanus latifolius, Phường. amaryllifolius) look lượt thích gladiola leaves. They’re narrow, long & pointed at the tip. When attached to their stems, they resemble giant green feather dusters. (See the top phokhổng lồ taken at a neighborhood wet market in Saigon last March 2008.)

They have sầu a grassy herby flavor & can be tied in a knot và added khổng lồ rice, both long grain & sticky rice. Cooks also use them in desserts by extracting their liquid, traditionally done by pounding on the leaves but I bởi vì it in the blender or mini-chopper with a little water. The green result is striking in color, kind of like super wheat grass in smell & looks. Once cooked, the color turns to a celadon green, & there’s a subtle hint of the herby unique.

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Below is strained pandan juice that I got from cutting up 4 lớn 6 large leaves inkhổng lồ 1-inch pieces & whirring with một nửa cup water.

Many cooks add a little green food coloring khổng lồ cheer up the pandan extract but the result is a little Christmas-y to me. Pandan leaves can also be used to wrap food up in & then grilled, though I’ve not been overly impressed with that application. Pandan can be woven into lớn small containers too.

In the Vietnamese kitchen, pandan is basically a southern ingredient. I’ve seen reference to lớn it in old cookbooks that hotline for lining steamer trays with the leaves & then steaming sticky rice over it for flavor. In fact, an alternative sầu name for lá dứa is cây cơm nếp (tree for sticky rice). Abroad, pandan is mostly available frozen, though I can get fresh in San Jose và Orange County, California. Floridians have told me that the plant grows very well there.

 Aside from culinary uses, it seems that pandan may be good for controlling diabetes too. That’s the lathử nghiệm from the Vietnamese community, per Phu who was asking about the English name for lá dứa. Drinking a tea made with pandan leaf has helped a few people combat or reduce the threat of diabetes – a growing problem amuốn Vietnamese Americans whose diets have sầu gotten richer & lives more sendetary since their arrival in the States. Phu will be trying it out and reporting back!

Though I watch what I eat, I frankly focus on the food more. I was raised by a mom who hailed from northern Vietphái nam so I'm relatively new to pandan. Over the past year or so, I've been experimenting & here are some tips:

When using pandan for sweets, I’ve found that it marries exceptionally well with coconut milk, especially when a touch of vanilla is added lớn bring out the herbal unique of both the coconut milk & the pandan. Make sure to lớn add some sugar and 1 to lớn 2 pinches of salt.Use a lot of leaves or the result will just be so subtle you’ll think the leaves weren't worth the trouble. Try to avoid the bottled extract, which tastes of chemicals.Smash the leaf a little before knotting it and adding it khổng lồ cook rice, etc, to ensure that the essence releases.

What are your favorite ways or tips for using the green leaf?

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