Whispering pines…

Do you buy the more expensive imported fragrant rice or worse, the ones from Bario? Of course, they’re nicer but unfortunately, they do not come cheap.

I have this pandan (screwpine) plant in my garden…

Pandan plant

…and usually, I would just cut a couple of the leaves, tie them in a knot and drop them into the rice…

Pandan leaves in rice

…when I’m cooking any.

Somebody commented to me once that when cooking, the fragrance would fill the whole kitchen but when eating, it did not seem to make much of a difference. I can’t say that I disagree – maybe if we eat both side by side – one with and one without, one may find that they’re not exactly the same, I wouldn’t know. For one thing, I found that the fragrant rice would only be fragrant when I opened a new bag of it but after a while, it did not seem all that fragrant anymore. Again, I could not be sure whether it was because I had got used to the smell so much so that I did not seem to detect it any longer or perhaps, it should not be kept for too long, I wouldn’t know either.

Whatever it is, word has it that the pandan leaves have health benefits for instance, they could be a natural remedy for gout and since I have a ready supply in my garden, it certainly would do no harm to just throw a few into the rice when cooking.

The leaves are used a lot in Thai cooking – the most popular being their pandan chicken…

Pandan chicken
*Archive photo*

…and I do know that they are used in the tying of nyonya bak chang (meat dumplings) as well. Even where those bamboo leaves are used, some will put a little piece of pandan inside or immerse the leaves in the water when boiling the dumplings for the very nice fragrance…and you can see the leaves used here in the very nice nyonya lor mai kai

Nyonya lor mai kai
*Archive photo*

…that used to be available here but unfortunately, they have taken it off their menu.

On my part, other than throwing them in the rice, I hardly use the leaves in cooking. I may have thrown in a few leaves as well when cooking my own satay beef or chicken, I can’t really remember now as I have not cooked that for a long time now but I definitely would have some when cooking let tao th’ng (green bean soup/porridge)…

Let tao th'ng

…which is said to have cooling properties and would be ideal for the current hot, dry and hazy weather that we are experiencing right now. The pandan leaves will  help give it a special fragrance and since they are claimed to have certain health benefits, this should be encouraged even more.

Likewise, adding pandan to your tong sui (sweet potato soup) or your homemade soya bean milk will enhance the taste and bring it to a whole new level and I know they use the colour for some Malay kuehs as well as in other ways, in the making of their delightful delicacies though I am not sure whether they will use the real thing or those available in bottles in the shops.

I’m not too sure whether it will make any difference in the rice that I fry for breakfast in the morning or not though. I guess everybody would know pretty well by now that I would do that whenever there is any leftover rice from the day before in the fridge. With all the fragrance and flavours of the ingredients used, I suppose it does not really matter what rice one uses…like my usual kampung-style fried rice that I cooked the other morning…

Kampung fried rice

…with prawns, belacan (dried prawn paste) and thinly-sliced French beans thrown in, no added salt and no msg. Yum! Yummmm!!!

What about you? Do you use pandan leaves in your cooking?