The Beguiling Aroma of Pandan

Vanilla might be the most pervasive dessert flavor in Western cultures, but in Southeast Asia, where I live, there’s another ingredient that trumps vanilla in its ubiquity and in being, well, just as basic as vanilla. I’m talking about pandan.
Pandan—…

Vanilla might be the most pervasive dessert flavor in Western cultures, but in Southeast Asia, where I live, there’s another ingredient that trumps vanilla in its ubiquity and in being, well, just as basic as vanilla. I’m talking about pandan.

Pandan—the more common term for pandanus amaryllifolius, a species of screwpine shrub—is a plant with long, slender leaves. Imagine the languid leaf segments of a palm tree bundled up into a waist-high shrub—that’s what pandan looks like. It’s sometimes referred to as “Asian vanilla,” and though pandan is as popular in this region of the world as vanilla is in the rest, the similarities between the two end there.

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Ghee-Smoked Chicken That Comes Together on Your Grill

“It started with—let me set the scene—me eating at a stateside Thai restaurant many years ago,” cookbook author Leela Punyaratabandhu writes in the introduction of her recently released Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill.

“As I examined a skewer of …

“It started with—let me set the scene—me eating at a stateside Thai restaurant many years ago,” cookbook author Leela Punyaratabandhu writes in the introduction of her recently released Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill.

“As I examined a skewer of chicken satay in my hand, I knew it had been cooked on a griddle hours in advance and reheated in a microwave, which prompted me to let out a small sigh over the wretched fate of how such an iconic grilled dish had become so dry, bland, and utterly devoid of smokiness.” This moment spurred Punyaratabandhu to develop not only a stellar satay recipe, but an entire book on Southeast Asian grilling.

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