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The Next Big Food Trend: Pandan Leaves

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Food trends may come and go, but the trend lined up to take-off in 2018 is sure to be a big one, and it’s coming straight out of southeast Asia. British food Goddess Nigella Lawson recently declared that the pandan leaf, a herbaceous tropical plant from southeast Asia, is going to be taking the Western cookery world by storm. She’s so confident in this that she claims it’s ‘going to be the new matcha’, which was dubbed the flavour of 2017.

Nigella is notorious for predicting the next big trend in the food world in the UK. Back in 2006, she somehow made goose fat sales go up by 70%, and she is also the reason behind the avocado fad of the past few years after she ingeniously spread the buttery fruit on a slice of toast. The use of pandan in cooking is sure to increase and present itself as an up and coming trend in Britain.

Also known as the screw pine, or ‘sweet plant’, pandan is used similarly to vanilla essence, to add flavour to food and drink. Like matcha, pandan also makes for Instagram gold, turning the foods you add it to a striking green colour. The craze has already taken off in America, and top chefs in the UK have started to incorporate it into some of their new dishes and desserts, such as pandan ice cream.

What can you make with Pandan?

Pandan leaves are versatile and have multiple uses. They can be used whole, wrapped around rice or meat, or to infuse sauces; the leaves can also be blended into a paste and used in creams. Pandan also comes in the form of essence, which can be used like vanilla essence to add flavour to baked goods.

The botanical aromas make it a great thing to infuse into rice dishes, and it pairs excellently with other southeast Asian flavours, such as lemongrass and coconut. Pandan leaves are popular in Thailand, often wrapped around chicken and deep fried, whereas Sri Lankan cuisine finds pandan leaves used in curry.

Pandan leaves are most often used in sweet dishes, either as a flavouring or to turn plain doughs, pastries and batters a rich green colour. A common use for it in Malaysia and Singapore is in the pandan chiffon cake, a green-coloured fluffy sponge cake made with coconut milk. Pandan is also a popular ingredient in other southeast Asian desserts, such as Kuih Dadar, a pancake coloured and flavoured with pandan and filled with coconut. Adding a British twist to the trend, pandan has been used in crème brulees, ice cream, doughnuts and rice puddings.

If you want to get in on this pandan-monium, you can get pandan essence and spread from any good oriental supermarket food store, such as Oriental Mart.

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