Culinary Creations: Pandan

Pandan leaves Pandan leaves

You would have probably encountered pandan on more than one occasion in the food that you have consumed. The leaves of this aromatic plant, native to Southeast Asia, have an intense and pleasant fragrance. This makes it popular in cooking as it is able to heighten the flavours in food and in turn, enhance one’s appetite.

Did you know that in some remote communities in the region, pandan leaves are used in the ceremonial worship of supernatural beings? Even during religious celebrations, you might see these leaves in attendance when devotees express gratitude to their gods.

Pandan plant Pandan plant

In a more local context, we often see drivers with bunches of pandan leaves in their vehicles, to keep pests like cockroaches at bay. At some point in our lives, we could have done this ourselves too!

This versatile plant is an essential ingredient particularly in this part of the world, as its leaves are often used in a huge variety of traditional foods. Its aroma and colour are frequently found in cakes, desserts, and even curries and beverages. My favourite is the Pandan Chiffon Cake! Are you ready to try your hand at this all-time favourite with our simple recipe?

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Pandan Chiffon Cake Recipe extracted from Heritage Garden Plants and Recipes by Daniela C. Zappi
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 90g castor sugar
  • 100 ml pandan coconut milk (obtained by blending 2-3 leaves with
  • coconut milk in a food processor and straining)
  • 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 to 180°C and line the bottom of a cake mould with baking parchment.
  2. Whisk egg yolks with 30g of the sugar for 2 minutes until pale. Stir in oil and pandan coconut milk and mix until evenly combined. Then whisk in the sieved flour mixed with baking powder until no trace of flour is found.
  3. With a balloon whisk, beat egg whites with 30g of sugar until foamy. Then add the remaining sugar and beat until the mixture is stiff and can be turned upside down.
  4. Add the beaten egg whites to the egg and flour mixture in three batches. The first part whisking well, the second and third batches allowing the air to stay within the mixture, so that the mixture will be airy but quite runny.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and dry. Remove from the oven and let rest until completely cool before unmoulding.

Written by: Beverly Ho, Senior Manager (Volunteers, Programming)

In her down time, Beverly can be found immersed in craftwork and gardening, or eyes glued to a thriller/ sci-fi movie/ novel! She enjoys cooking, singing, photography, gaming on her PS4 and just that bit of simple sports… since the limbs are now a lot less flexible with age.

This article is part of our Culinary Creations series.