Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unfinished business: Pandanus amaryllifolius

Okay, so -- on Friday, the husband went to one of the Asian groceries in Iowa City and this happened to catch his eye:

So he bought it and brought it home. The label isn't in English, so I don't know what it's claiming to be, exactly, but I infer it's something along the lines of pandan extract.

It's an otherworldly emerald green color, due to lots and lots of food coloring. (I can read the label well enough to recognize tartrazine, or Yellow No. 5, and brilliant blue, a.k.a. Blue No. 1.)

I haven't tasted it yet, largely due to not wanting to have an emerald green tongue, but the smell -- you may recall that smelling the smell was sort of the point all along, through this whole Pandanus amaryllifolius quest (Parts 1, 2, 3) -- more or less splits the difference between (plain white or yellow, or angel food) cake, popcorn, and fresh bread, though cake is slightly dominant. The husband's take on it was caramel corn, which either nails it or gets really close (I don't have a lot of personal experience with caramel corn). I also had a granola bar on Saturday that, when I opened the package and smelled it, was remarkably close too.

So my curiosity is more or less satisfied now, but I'm still going to have to do some actual cooking at some point, or at least (since I don't really cook so much) heat up a leaf and see what happens, to complete the whole pandan investigation.


Lance said...

I could agree on cake, but I still smelled something more greenish - grass or alfalfa like. Maybe it's just me.

Elizabeth Barrow said...

I am curious as to how this whole experiment turns out!

Pat said...

If it is the same substance it should be a bit volatile. You could boil some in a pan and collect the distilled water from the lid and taste that.

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of links that might help untangle the various species and, as a bonus, there are recipes and chemistry!



Han Keat Lim said...

The product is Koepoe-Koepoe (Kupu-kupu in Malay) Butterfly brand Pandan paste, is used for flavoring and coloring for cake and drinks.
I agree with Lance. Pandan smells greenish like grass, but for me it smells better than grass.

Colin Wilson said...

We have some of that at home, but my wife doesn't care for it so much due to the artificial green color. She prefers to use a pandan essence like this one. Pandan naturally has a green color, so I don't know why manufacturers feel the need to enhance it.

Anyway, when cooked in a dessert, pandan adds something like a vanilla flavour, but better ... and greener.

My wife knows dozens of delicious Vietnamese desserts that use pandan, but a simple one you could try is just a tapioca dish. Dump a can of coconut milk in a pot, add a bag of tapioca pearls, add a few drops of pandan essence, and cook as per directions on the tapioca. You might want to add sugar, or substitute milk or water for the coconut if you wanted to determine the pandan flavour on its own.

Oh, and she says that you should be able to smell the pandan flavour just from cutting part of a leaf off of the plant. It should not be necessary to cook the leaf to smell it, though that will enhance the smell. If that's not the case with your plant, then maybe they just have different varieties of pandan in Vietnam.

Paul said...

I had no idea the Malay used Dutch orthography. I knew Indonesia did. How very!

As I understand, this plant is like the curry leaf plant in that every one (even within the same plot of land) has a slightly different aroma. The difference between cultivars could well be greater, too, but I have no experience growing it. Just eating it.

mr_subjunctive said...

Lance / Han Keat Lim:

I don't get anything grassy off the extract at all, but that's not that surprising -- an extract wouldn't necessarily have the same smell as the real thing.


Is this the product you bought, then?


I'm not worried about tasting it; I just didn't want to do it then because I didn't especially want a green tongue. I will at some point, though.


I've tried smelling the leaf directly from the plant. I got mostly green / cut-grass, with a little bit of musty/mushroom. (It was very disappointing.)

Lance said...

No, the one I got was a different brand, although I'm sure just as artificially colored. It is an extract. The smell, even though green to me, is pleasant. I've planned on making some cake or something. The tapioca sounds interesting to me. The one I got was out of Bangkok Thailand.