It’s aroma is indescribable–sweet and nutty, pleasant and soothing. Add a leaf to rice while cooking and the term “plain white rice” loses its meaning. My father-in-law used to grow pandan in a pot in the garden in front of their house. When cooking rice, he would cut off a leaf and put it in. The wonderful aroma would permeate the kitchen and waft through the living room and it just smelled so good.
Pandan is a very important ingredient not only in the Philippines but in the entire Southeast Asia. The very popular pandan chicken (recipe) from Thailand, for instance, is just one of the many main dishes that rely on the pandan leaf for flavor and aroma.
Combining pandan with coconut is one of the most popular way of using it in Filipino cooking–pandan macaroons, the classic buko pandan dessert, macapuno-pandan medley at the old Magnolia Ice Cream House, Shopwise’s macapuno-pandan cake…
For all its incomparable uses in cooking, pandan leaves are really quite cheap. The bunch in the photo cost a little over PhP 2.00. The current exchange rate is PhP 51.00 to a US$ 1.00 so go figure. And I bought those pandan leaves in the supermarket; they are even cheaper in the wet market.