Step away from the avocados – according to Nigella, from now on you’ll be wanting to pop pandan in your trolley instead.
The food writer told The Times: “I think it’s going to be the new matcha. I may be wrong, but we seem to be interested in that.”
She added: “It’s not in Waitrose. I don’t know where it is in this country yet. But, I notice more and more people in America baking with Pandan essence, which comes from that leaf.”
So what is pandan?
Pandan leaves – bright green blades with spiky edges – come from the tropical ‘pandanus amaryllifolius’ (to call it by its proper plant name). It’s widely cultivated and used in South and East Asian cooking, and has been for centuries (so no, it’s not a newfangled creation, it’s just not fully made it West, yet…).
What does pandan taste like?
Often called ‘Asia’s vanilla’, people also say pandan has a coconutty, citrusy, grassy tang to it, and that it can be both sweet and refreshing, depending how you use it. Really, you’ve got to try it to ‘get it’.
How do you cook with pandan?
It’s less about munching on the woody leaves, and more about using the aroma of them to flavour and infuse other items, like ice cream, rice, sweet sauces, custards and curries – basically, anywhere you’d like a hint of vanilla, chuck in a pandan leaf, or a drop of pandan essence. The essence is meant to taste great mixed into pancakes and cake batter, or turned into jelly, and leaves everything tinged a zingy green.
You can also stir pandan paste through coconut milk and add it to stews, while the leaves are often used to parcel up fish before being steaming, and wrapped around chicken to be baked.
Sadly, as Nigella notes, you can’t pick it up in the supermarket currently, but if you’re determined, you can order pandan leaves online. And by next year, if Nigella has the same impact she did on avocado sales (they allegedly jumped 30% after she announced loving avos on toast), we’re likely to be inundated by the stuff.