A popular snack in Malaysia, these coconut pandan crepes are made with coconut milk and fresh pandan extract. The filling is a mixture of melted palm sugar and freshly grated coconut.
It might look simple—it might even seem plain to strangers to Malaysian cooking—but, oh, this sweet snack encapsulates the flavors of Southeast Asia so beautifully.
The coconut may have captured the world’s imagination but how many non-Asians know about pandan?
Pandan is to Southeast Asia what vanilla is to the Western world. We use pandan leaves to flavor savory and sweet dishes. Pandan is especially good when paired with coconut.
If you’re a stranger to pandan, know that the leaves aren’t eaten. Instead, the flavor and aroma are extracted either by adding the leaves to food (to rice, especially) while it cooks, by cooking meat wrapped in pandan leaves or by making and extract and using the extract for cooking.
You will need pandan extract to make these coconut pandan crepes.
Traditionally, making pandan extract takes time and patience. The leaves are cut finely, placed in a mortar, a little water is added and the pestle is used to grind the leaves to extract the flavor, color and aroma.
But it’s 2018. You can substitute a blender or food processor for the mortar and pestle. Just the dump the cut up pandan leaves into the blender or food processor, add water, process and strain. Remember that the less water you use, the more concentrated the flavor and aroma of the extract will be. For best results, press the leaves after straining to get every bit of pandan flavor and aroma.
If you don’t have access to pandan leaves, pandan extract is available in the grocery. Just add a few drops to water and use. Know, however, that commercial pandan extract contains artificial food color.
The other ingredient that makes coconut pandan crepes so unique is the palm sugar in the filling. Sugar cane may be the most well-known source of table sugar but sugar can be derived from other plants including palm.
Palm sugar can be made from any variety of palm tree including coconut (coconut is a variety of palm but, in consumer terms, palm sugar and coconut sugar are not synonymous). Palm sugar is sold in cakes. Depending on the palm variety from which it was made, palm sugar cake may be beige, golden brown or dark brown.
The coconut pandan crepe filling is made by melting the palm sugar then stirring freshly grated coconut in it.
Making the crepes is nothing unusual except that the batter is green because of the pandan extract. And, instead of milk, coconut milk is used.
Once the crepes are cooked, they are filled spring roll style. The filling is spread in the middle and the crepe is folded and rolled to keep it in.
To garnish my coconut pandan crepes, I sprinkled them with toasted black sesame seeds before serving.
Ready to make coconut pandan crepes? Here’s the recipe.
- 1/2 cup chopped palm sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Place the chopped palm sugar in a thick-bottomed pan and add a tablespoon of water. Melt over medium-low heat until fully dissolved.
Stir in the grated coconut and salt. Continue cooking, stirring often, for a minute or two or until quite dry.
Cool the filling.
Cut the pandan leaves into small pieces. Place in the food processor or blender and add half a cup of water. Process until finely chopped.
Stain the leaves to get the extract.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
Pour in the pandan extract and coconut milk. Stir until smooth.
Heat a crepe pan (or an ordinary frying pan) and brush lightly with oil.
Pour about a quarter cup of the crepe batter and swirl the pan to make the batter spread thinly.
Cook the crepe just until set. Flip and cook for a few seconds longer.
Repeat until all the batter has been used.
Lay a crepe flat on a plate.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling across the center.
Fold in the two sides then fold in the side nearest you. Roll the crepe outward to completely seal the filling.
Repeat until all the crepes have been filled or until you run out of filling.
Sprinkle the coconut pandan crepes with toasted sesame seeds before serving.