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Date [ 2013-01-14, 11:40 ]

 

This plain looking plant has many uses.



(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by benjamin Kim = Its scientific classification is Pandanus amaryllifolius. But to Malaysians, it is just known as the daun pandan (pandan leaf).
The plant is rare in the wild, but is widely cultivated in small gardens. It is an upright, green plant with fan-shaped sprays of long, narrow, bladelike leaves and woody aerial roots. Young plants emerge from these roots and can be regrown separately. It can also be propagated by cuttings. The plant is sterile and only flowers rarely.
The next time you buy a bowl of cendol from the Indian Muslim hawker, watch as he lifts the cover of his container to pour the cendol into your bowl. You should notice a big bunch of fresh green leaves tied into a knot and floating in the container. This is what gives your cendol that distinctive fragrance.


The leaves are used in various ways in various countries. Housewives drop dried leaves into their cupboards or hang them in a corner of a room for an aromatic fragrance. Taxi drivers in Malaysia and Singapore hang bunches of pandan leaves in their taxis to keep cockroaches away. The leaves contain several repellent chemicals... In India, the leaves are thrown into open wells to scent the water. They also use the flower of this plant in making perfumes or dropping the extract desserts and sweets.  In Southeast Asia, cooks wrap leaves around pork, chicken, fish and balls of glutinous rice to protect and scent them while grilling, steaming or roasting the food. Others weave strips of pandan leaves into decorative serving baskets for rice and savory dishes. The West uses its strong, sweet smell in perfumes and other fragrant cosmetics.


Mention must be made of a particular Malay marriage custom. At all Malay weddings the Bunga Rampai. ‘Bunga’ meaning flower but it is not a flower at all but of various flowers cut into small pieces with the Pandan added in for its special aroma. The most common flowers used are Bunga Chempaka (white and yellow local magnolia), fresh Jasmine and Indian Roses. To these add sandalwood powder, safflower oil and rose hip oil. It will all be mixed together and be among the bridal presents.

In places where the pandan does not grow naturally, as in America, extracts and frozen leaves can be bought from ethnic specialty shops.
While it is well known for being used as flavouring in cooking not many know it also has medicinal values.
For that Healing Power


Some of its uses are for:
 *Weak Nerves
Take three pieces of fresh pandan leaves, washed and cut into small pieces. Add three glasses of clean water and boil until only one glass of water remains. After it has cooled, filter the water and drink one glass each, the morning and afternoon.


*Stiffness and Rheumatism
. Stir gently to heat up half-a-cup of coconut oil. Add in three pandan leaves that have been washed and sliced thinly. Bring it down to cool. After this, use it to rub on the sore body parts


*Chicken Pox
It also believed the plant can cure chicken pox. The plant needs to be ground before adding some water. Then apply the paste to the body of the patient.


*Continuous Fidgeting
Wash two pandan leaves and slice them thinly. Brew this with a glass of hot water. Bring it down to cool and filter it. Drink three times a day until the fidgeting stops.


*Hair Loss

Take 10 young, fresh leaves of the hibiscus. A handful of urang-airang leaves (See pix). This wild plant grows by the roadside or the edge of fields. Five mangkokan leaves which is grown as an ornamental plant with leaves shaped like a bowl See pix). One pandan leaf, 10 jasmine flowers and a rosebud. Wash all of them clean and cut into small pieces. Put all of them in an enamel saucer pan. Then add half-a-cup each of sesame, coconut and hazelnut oils. Heat until the boiling point is reached then bring the pan down to cool. Then filter and use the extract to massage into the scalp at night. In the morning, bathe and wash the hair. Do this 2-3 times a week. 
When consumed in large amounts, a diuretic affect results. Some skin conditions use the leaves as a cure. Traditional healers use the roots for anti-diabetic treatment.


For that Special Taste


The characteristic aroma of pandan is caused by the aroma compound 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline. This is what gives white bread; jasmine and basmati rice their sweet smell.

The leaves are used to flavour rice, curries, puddings, and ice-cream. The common method is tie together a bunch and place it in the cooking pan or pot. It is removed at the end of cooking. Some housewives put chopped leaves into a container with a small amount of water and let it simmer... This is then strained and used to flavour dishes later. Try wrapping pandan leaves around fish before roasting. A popular sweets dish is made with coconut milk, rice and pandan leaves for flavour.

For festive holidays and ceremonies, pandan is used with rose flavour spicy dishes and curries. It is commonly used for rice dishes, especially with basmati rice for biryani.

It can be purchased as a ready-to-use paste in Asian specialty stores. If purchased fresh, pandan leaves should be pounded into a paste for use in desserts, adding water sparingly.

For cakes and desserts, the leaves are pounded into a paste with a bright green color. No surprise then that it is very good at turning Pandan cakes a clear green.

While Singapore produces various types of rice dumplings, it seems to have developed a penchant for the Nonya Rice dumplings. The marinated minced pork fillings used are neither oily nor too sweet. Best eaten when steamed hot, for busy working people it is a very convenient food, wrapped neatly in pandan leaves as it is, to be eaten whenever there is a need to.
The West may have its Vanilla but the East, with its impossible to duplicate green colouring and floral scent, has the Pandan!

benjamin@koreanpress.net
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