What is PanDan?

The pandan plant (also known as screw-pine leaf) is widely used over much of South East Asia both for its culinary and medicinal properties. It is a tropical plant from the genus Pandanus that is related to the lily family. The pandan leaf is long and thin (about 40cm long x 2cm wide).

The leaves have very little scent while growing on the plant but once harvested and crushed or cut, the leaves release the characteristic aroma sometimes likened to a mixture of almonds and vanilla. However, once dried, the leaves have very little smell.

Many western reference sources have commented that pandan extract is a sort of ‘asian vanilla’. Though this gives the uninitiated a sense of what type of flavour to expect, such comparisons are liable to cause some mild irritation in asian cookery circles. It has been commented that ‘pandan leaves are to vanilla what silk is to cotton.’


  • In the kitchen, it is common to add a few leaves into the boiling water while the rice cooks. 
  • The fresh leaves are also used to wrap fish chicken or other meats so as to infuse the finished product with this most delicate of flavours. 
  • The vivid green colour from the pandan leaf can also be used as a natural food colouring 
  • The pleasing aroma of pandan also means that it has been used as an air freshener for small areas (such as cupboards and taxis) as well as an ingredient in an asian potpourri 
  • The leaves themselves can be dried and used to manufacture a range of goods such as handbags, mats and even shoes 
  • With regards to its medicinal uses, pandan has long been used to treat a variety of skin complaints such as eczema. The whole plants can be crushed and prepared to make a diuretic concoction. 

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