How to use pandan leaves to cook Malay Cuisine

Pandan is a tropical plant native to Malaysia. The leaves are long, ribbed and lance-shaped and as a garden specimen it has a unique appearance and only about a metre tall.

I grow pandan plants in my garden. Pandan plants are easy to grow in our tropical climate. It grows directly from the soil.

If you trim the pandan leaves in the pot, it will become a decorative plant to the garden. 

Although the pandan grows in my garden rapidly from the soil, I still plant  it in the big flower pot near the terrace of my kitchen. 

How I grow my own pandan 

I took the young pandan with roots from the big pandan plant. Then soak it in the water for 3 days.  

I put black soil in the pot and planted the pandan. Break up the soil to the depth of the root ball in an area twice as wide as the root. 

Water the plant thoroughly after planting so the soil settles in the planting hole and the soil is evenly moist throughout the root zone. The pandan plant must be watered twice a day. 

Now it grows nicely. As word of caution, do not sit the plant pot in a saucer of water, that will rot out the roots. 

Whenever I want to use pandan leave either for cooking or baking, I will pluck from my  garden. 

Pandan leaves that grows in my garden

However, the pandan in my garden is quite far from my kitchen. 

Since I planted it in the pot, I had to water it daily. The one that grows in the garden, I don’t have to water it because the root is already stronger to the soil.

Pandan thrives in dappled sunlight to direct sunlight. Pandan can be drought-tolerant, especially when they get a little bit older.

Cooking rice with pandan

Cooking nasi lemak is never without pandan leaves. Other than rice as the main ingredient, pandan leaves should never be left behind when I cook nasi lemak.

Nasi Lemak is our Malay traditional dish and now has become a national dish to Malaysian. In Nasi Lemak we put pandan leaves and consequently  pandan too, has  become a part of  our heritage in cooking.

The long dark green leaves of pandan give a good aroma to the rice while maintaining the white colour of rice.  It does not  matter how many pandan leaves you put in the rice but the colour of the rice remains  white. 

How to cook nasi lemak with pandan leaves. 

  • Wash rice three times.
  • Put rice in the pot. 
  • Put in coconut milk and water accordingly. 
  • Add in pandan leaves that had been tied and salt. 
  • You can add ginger or black pepper seed for added flavour.
  • I cooked Nasi Lemak with a rice cooker.

Sometimes other than putting the pandan leaves in the nasi lemak, I put extract from the pandan in it. I use four tablespoons of pandan extract to mix in the rice.

I make extract fresh from pandan leaves for Nasi Lemak and it tastes better. This is my alternative  way of cooking Nasi Lemak.

The pandan extract can produce a beautiful very light green colour of the nasi lemak with a good taste and fragrance smell.

Not only nasi lemak but other types of rice produce  better aroma with pandan leaves. This fragrance aroma may raise our appetite to eat. 

There are other types of rice that I cook for my family.  Other than plain rice, I cook alternatively three or four months in between for a change for  normal rice.

Nasi or rice 

On a daily basis I cook normal rice or nasi in Malay for my family. This rice washes and cooks with plain water in the rice cooker. Add pandan leaves  to give this normal rice a nice fragrance. 

With side dishes like fish, chicken, beef, fish, squid, prawn and vegetables that have been cooked in any Malay signature make the rice very tasty to eat. This white normal rice can be paired with anything. 

My favourite dish to eat plain rice is Asam Pedas with fish. In Asam Pedas gravy, I put fresh turmeric, onions, garlic, belacan, tamarind juice, daun kesum, bunga kantan and salt to taste.

The fish I use to cook in Asam Pedas is Ikan Tenggiri, Ikan Merah and Ikan Jenahak.

Nasi Briyani

Nasi Briyani is rice cooked with spice. To get excellent results, I use basmati rice to cook Nasi Briyani. Even though you can cook using normal rice, it is not good as basmati rice. I make my own gravy mix for Nasi Briyani.  

How to cook Nasi Briyani.

  • Wash the basmati rice and soak in the plain water.
  • Heat ghee in the pot and saute sliced onions, garlic, cumin seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, chilli powder, turmeric powder, garam masala and fresh tomato slice.  
  • Add in milk, rice and equivalent water. 
  • Mix well and put in yoghurt and cut pandan leaves. 
  • Cover the pot and cook.
  • At three quarters the cook sprinkles the rice with saffron.
  • Put back the pot lid. 

Nasi Briyani is good to eat with chicken or beef rendang.

Nasi Tomato 

Nasi Tomato is rice with tomato flavour. I use tomato puree in the rice. For rice, I used basmati rice for  taste.

How to cook Nasi Tomato 

  • Wash the basmati rice and soak in the plain water. 
  • Heat ghee in the pot and saute sliced onions, garlic and lemongrass.
  • Add in milk, rice, tomato puree and equivalent water. 
  • Mix well and put in pandan leaves. Cover the pot and cook.

Nasi Tomato is good to eat with Ayam Masak Merah

Nasi Minyak

Nasi Minyak is rice that is cooked with spices. I used basmati rice for add on taste while eating. Always use good ingredients in cooking for better results. 

How to cook Nasi Minyak

  • Wash the basmati rice and soak in the plain water.
  • Heat ghee in the pot and saute sliced onions, garlic, whole spices of cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods.
  • Add in milk, rice, and equivalent water.
  • Mix well and put in pandan leaves. Cover the pot and cook.

Nasi Minyak is good to eat with chicken or beef rendang.

Nasi Jagung

Nasi Jagung is rice that is cooked with spices and corn kernel. I used basmati rice for good taste on the plate.

How to cook Nasi Jagung 

  • Wash the basmati rice and soak in the plain water. 
  • Heat ghee in the pot and saute sliced onions, garlic, whole spices of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods. 
  • Add in milk, rice, corn kernel and equivalent water. 
  • Mix well and put in pandan leaves.
  • Cover the pot and cook.

Nasi Jagung is good to eat with chicken or beef rendang.

Nasi Beringin

Nasi Beringin  is rice that is cooked with spices and herbs. I used basmati rice for a good taste.

How to cook Nasi Beringin

  • Wash the basmati rice and soak in the plain water. 
  • Heat ghee in the pot and saute sliced onions, garlic, whole spices of cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel, fenugreek and cardamom pods. 
  • Add in milk, rice, tap lemongrass and equivalent water. 
  • Mix well and put in pandan leaves.
  • Cover the pot and cook.

Nasi Beringin is good to eat with fried chicken, sambal and curry gravy.

Nasi Impit

Nasi Impit is the press rice that has to be cut when it is cold. I use normal rice for Nasi Impit for better results.

How to make Nasi Impit

  • Wash the rice and cook in the pot with the ratio one cup rice with three cups water.
  • Add in pandan leaves in the pot. 
  • After cooking, press the rice in the mould and wait until cold before cutting in a cube shape.

Nasi Impit is good to eat with beef or chicken rendang and satay sauce. It is a combination of satay. Other Malay dishes are eaten with soup called soto and lontong when eaten with coconut milk.

Nasi Goreng or Fried rice

Nasi Goreng is an all-time Malaysian favourite. Take the plain rice that had been cooked with pandan leaves and fried with a mix of other ingredients.

How to put pandan leaves in rice

Pandan leaves are long and messy if put in the pot that way. To make your cooking neat and tidy, knotted the leaves while cooking. Your rice looks attractive with good fragrance in the pot. 

When to put pandan leaves in rice

At the start of the very beginning of cooking, put pandan leaves all at once in the pot with rice. The longer the pandan leaves in the rice while cooking, the more fragrance comes from it.

Porridge

Sweet porridge or bubur  is Malay delicacy. It is good to have bubur after having lunch or for afternoon tea time. This watery sweetened  used coconut milk and pandan leaves

Bubur Kacang

How to make bubur kacang

  • Soak mung bean for two hours.
  • Boil it until soft with knotted  pandan leaves.
  • Add in coconut milk, salt,  sugar and palm sugar.

Bubur Pulut Hitam

Bubur Pulut Hitam is a popular dessert among Malays.

It is made using black glutinous rice, which turns to a dark purple when cooked.

The rice is washed, then placed in a large pot of water with some knotted pandan leaves. The pandan leaves give fragrance aroma to the dessert.

How to make bubur pulut hitam

  • Soak black glutinous rice  for one hours.
  • Boil it until soft with some knotted pandan leaves.
  • Add in coconut milk, salt,  sugar and palm sugar.

Bubur Gandum

Bubur gandum made from wheat grain. It is dessert well known in Malaysia

How to make bubur gandum

  • Soak wheat grains for one hours.
  • Boil it until soft with knotted pandan leaves.
  • Add in coconut milk, salt,  sugar and palm sugar.

Bubur cha-cha

Bubur cha-cha is a dessert that is with colourful tapioca jelly in coconut milk soup.

How to make bubur cha-cha

  • Boil colourful tapioca jelly until it blossoms with knotted pandan leaves.
  • Add in coconut milk, salt,  sugar and palm sugar.

Food colouring

Beside the fragrance of pandan in the rice, it can be a natural food colouring. 

How to make food colouring

  • Cut pandan leaves into small pieces.
  • Add some water in pandan and blend it to produce natural green colour.
  • Filter the blended pandan leaves for pandan juice.

Malay kuih use pandan juice  for natural food colouring such as kuih seri muka and puteri ayu. The kuih is tasty and has a nice fragrance. 

How to make pandan extract

For the kuih or cake that is not using pandan juice, I make an extract from pandan.

How to make pandan extract is by storing the blended pandan juice in glass for two days in the refrigerator.  After two days pour out the water on top and the pandan extract is at the bottom.

Other than dessert, pandan leaves may also enhance the taste and aroma of curry gravy.  When I cook curry, I put pandan leaves in it. Cut the pandan leaves in pieces and put in the curry gravy together with curry leaves.

How to make Ayam Goreng Pandan

Pandan leaves make fried chicken fragrance and are tasty. 

  • Cut chicken in small pieces and marinate with salt and turmeric powder.
  • Wrapped the chicken with pandan leaves .
  • Dip fried the chicken on slow heat.

The fried chicken is crunchy and tasty. 

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