Sometimes called the “vanilla of the East” due to its distinct sweet flavour, pandan is a mainstay in Asian kitchens from Singapore to India and Vietnam.
In 2017, UK domestic goddess Nigella Lawson even called pandan “the new matcha”, although we’ve already been savouring this fragrant green leaf for centuries. Today, some of the trendiest bars in New York, Paris and London are serving pandan-flavoured cocktails.
But how much do you really know about the humble leaf?
For starters, did you know that there are around 750 species of the pandanus or pandan plant – also known as the screwpine? The plants are similar in appearance to palm trees with fan-shaped bunches of long, narrow blade-shaped leaves.
They’re most commonly found in tropical and subtropical countries such as India, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand but some species of pandan can even be found in Australia.
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While we nom on pandan chiffon cake, pandan is being researched and recognised worldwide for its potential medicinal and healing properties. The plant and its leaves contain phytochemicals – natural biologically active compounds that seem to have some wide-ranging health benefits.
Here are eight of them: