Other Names: Pandanus amaryllifolius: Bai toey or toey hom (Thai); daun pandan (Indonesian); dua thom or la dua (Vietnamese); pandal or _rampe¬ (Sinhalese); pandano (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian); pandanus (French); schraubenbaum (German); screwpine; taey (Khmer); tey ban or tey hom (Laotian). Pandanus tectoris: Hala (Hawaiian).

General Description: Pandanus (Pandanus amaryllifolius) is a tree native to Southeast Asia with slender, fragrant, shiny, pleated leaves and a musky, haylike scent reminiscent of aromatic Jasmine rice. Called screwpine in English because of its twisted stems, this tree’s leaves impart flavor, a distinctive aroma, and natural green color to tofu, jellies, dough, curry, syrup, sauces, coconut rice, and Indonesian and Malaysian sweets. Pandanus appears in Sinhalese yellow rice, northern Indian rice biriyanis, and Indonesian yellow rice. In Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, rice cooked in coconut milk and flavored with pandanus leaves is a delicacy, while in Indonesia, rice is steamed in small baskets made from the leaves. The leaves are especially popular in Bali. In Thailand, iced drinks are made from young coconuts flavored with pandanus leaves; in Indonesia, they appear frequently in sweet puddings or custards of sticky rice and coconut. There are hundreds of species of pandanus, some of which have edible fruits; others have strong leaves, which can be used as plates.

Pandanus blossoms come from a palmlike tree (P. tectorius_) cultivated in India for its male flowers, which have a delicate scent similar to rose but fruitier. Kewra water, made from these flowers, flavors northern Indian sweets, syrups, betel nut (_pan masala), and soft drinks. Pandanus trees grow almost everywhere in tropical Asia, but kewra water is mainly a northern Indian flavoring.

Purchase and Avoid: Look in Southeast Asian markets for fresh pandanus leaves; they may also be found frozen. The leaves lose all their fragrance if dried. The scent of pandanus leaves develops only on withering; the fresh plant has little odor. Many cooks prefer to buy pandan essence, available in Thai groceries. Kewra water, made from pandanus blossoms, is available in Indian groceries.

Serving Suggestions: Boil pandanus leaves in water, sweeten as desired, strain, and cool for a refreshing beverage. Add a few pandanus leaves to a rice pot to give the rice a lovely fragrance. Make rice pudding using coconut milk flavored with kewra water and arrange sliced mangoes and pineapples over the top.

Food Affinities: Cake, chicken, coconut, ice cream, iced drinks, Indian sweets, kabocha squash, mango, palm sugar, pudding, rice, sugar.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com