For the uninitiated, tasting pandan for the first time is like learning a word for an emotion you've always struggled to describe. Floral like vanilla but with a grassy lilt and a tropical bouquet that verges on coconut plus a distinct note that bubblegum?, pandan (also called screwpine leaf) is an ingredient worth getting to know. In Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and beyond, it's as common a flavoring as vanilla is in the West, and despite the plant's beguiling appearance—tough leaves that look more like leek greens than dessert fodder—it's one of the most versatile tools in a cook's pantry.


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