Pandanus amaryllifolius is a tropical plant in the Pandanus (screwpine) genus, which is commonly known as pandan leaves (//), and is used widely in Southeast Asian cooking as a flavoring. The characteristic aroma of pandan is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which may give white bread, jasmine rice and basmati rice (as well as bread flowers Vallaris glabra) their typical smell. The plant is rare in the wild but is widely cultivated. It is an upright, green plant with fan-shaped sprays of long, narrow, blade-like leaves and woody aerial roots. The plant is sterile, with flowers only growing very rarely, and is propagated by cuttings.
In India and Bangladesh it is called Rampe and ketaki respectively, along with the other variety of pandan there (Pandanus fascicularis), and is used to enhance the flavor of pulao, biryani and sweet coconut rice pudding, payesh if basmati rice is not used. It acts as a cheap substitute for basmati fragrance as one can use normal, non-fragrant rice and with the help of pandan the dish tastes and smells like basmati is used. It is called Ambemohor pat in Marathi; Ramba in Tamil, Biriyanikaitha in Malayalam, pandan wangi in Indonesian, hsun hmway (ဆွမ်းမွှေး) in Burmese, pandan in Tagalog, ใบเตย bai tooey in Thai, rampe in Sinhala, sleuk toi in Khmer, Daun Pandan in Nonya cooking, Dứa thơm/ lá nếp in Vietnamese, 香兰 ("Xiāng lán") in Chinese and बासमतिया पौधा [bɑːsmət̪ɪjɑː pɑʊd̪ʱɑː] "fragrant plant" in Magahi and Bhojpuri due to its fragrance.
The leaves are used either fresh or dried, and are commercially available in frozen form in Asian grocery stores in nations where the plant does not grow. They have a nutty, botanical fragrance that is used as a flavor enhancer in India, Indonesian, Singaporean, Filipino, Malaysian, Thai, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese, Sri Lankan, Khmer and Burmese cuisines, especially rice dishes and cakes.
The leaves are sometimes steeped in coconut milk, which is then added to the dish. They may be tied in a bunch and cooked with the food. They may be woven into a basket which is used as a pot for cooking rice. Pandan chicken, (Thai: ไก่อบใบเตย, kai op bai toei), is a dish of chicken parts wrapped in pandan leaves and baked. The leaves are also used as a flavoring for desserts such as pandan cake and sweet beverages. Filipino cuisine uses pandan as a flavoring in buko pandan fruit salad, as well as rice-based pastries and numerous sweet drinks and desserts.
Bottled Pandan extract is available in shops, and often contains green food coloring.
Use in traditional medicine
Pandanus amaryllifolius has a number of local medicinal uses. Leaf extracts have been used to reduce fever, relieve indigestion and flatulence and as a cardio-tonic. The oil of the leaf is described as stimulant and antispasmodic and is believed to be effective against headaches, rheumatism, and epilepsy and as a cure for sore throats. Pandanus root is also used by traditional practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetic patients.
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