Pandan Leaf (Screwpine Leaf)

September 14th, 2009Ingredients28 Comments


If you are not familiar with Southeast Asian cuisines, you might not have seen or heard of pandan leaf or screwpine leaf. Known as “the vanilla of the east,” pandan leaf is an indispensable ingredient in many Nyonya recipes, especially when it comes to Nyonya desserts and sweet cakes known as Nyonya kuih.

My next post is about a favorite Nyonya kuih where pandan leaf is the main ingredient so this post serves as a quick introduction…

The pandan plant is very easy to grow, and you can find them growing in the yard of many homes. For home cooks, all they have to do is cut the pandan leaves as needed for cooking, and then tie them into a knot to infuse dishes such as nasi lemak or desserts such as bee koh moy with the sweet fragrance of the leaves. Other than cooking, my mother loved using pandan for beauty purposes. She would make herself rice-based powder called “bedak sejuk,” and she would add some finely chopped pandan leaves into it. As a result, the home-made “cosmetic” imparts a natural floral aroma that is very pleasing and inviting.

(Bedak sejuk is a local beauty product made of rice powder and water. Rice powder and water are mixed together to form a dough and then broken into small pieces before drying out under the sun. To apply the bedak sejuk, add some water to dilute and apply it to your body or face. They have a cooling effect for the hot and humid weather in Malaysia. The bedak sejuk is similar to the ones used by many women in Myanmar.)

Anyway, I disgress.

In the United States, you can find frozen pandan leaves in Asian stores. Unfortunately, they do no justice to the fresh variety and have lost much of the essence and fragrance. I usually double or triple the quantity to get to the desired result.

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28 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Tuty says:

    Oh yes, Bee. In Indonesia we have the same “cosmetic”. We call it Bedak Dingin (=sejuk) but I believe the fragrance comes from jasmine flowers (bunga Melati). My grandmas used this fragrant rice beads. Thanks for reminding me of this dying cosmetic since the young generation prefers the branded ones.

    • Nyonya Food says:

      Tuty – yes yes you are right, there is this bunga wangi, but I swear my mother also put the pandan leaves because I remember vividly the small pieces of green bits in the bedak sejuk/bedak dingin. I actually loved it when I was growing up. Would cover my whole face with the bedak, LOL, like mad.

  2. For US residents, I would recommend buying your own pandan plant. As you say, the frozen leaves do not do justice to fresh leaves. I got my pandan plant a few years ago from Well Sweep Farms in NJ and it has been doing very well.

  3. Pingback:Kuih Dadar (Kuih Tayap) | Nyonya Food & Recipes

  4. Just bought a pack of pandan and coconut bits ice bars today. yummers. Pandan is one of my favourite flavours in dessert (after taro). It’s so fragrant, distinct, but not cloying like coconut can be sometimes. <3

  5. I’ve seen Panadan in the stores but never knew what to do with it until now. I may have to try the frozen version first, but will be on the look out for the fresh.

    • Nyonya Food says:

      I only get frozen pandan here. The smell and aroma are that great though, but oh well.

      • Ronnie M says:

        I came across you post and it put me on a mission to find pandan in southern California.

        This nursery has several pandan plants available if you or your readers are interested.
        Ong Nursery
        858-277-8167 to contact owner Quang Ong — UC Riverside agronomist
        2528 Crandall Drive
        San Diego, CA 92111

        PS. They are not cheap. 45$ and 95$ I think.

  6. Winnie says:

    Anyone knows where pandan plants are sold in Sydney Australia?

  7. Malou says:

    I’m Filipino and I buy pandan essence from our local Filipino grocery here in NJ. They’re just like the ubiquitous McCormick essences. You can get the pandan flavoring in colorless form or green which means that food coloring was added. Either way, they’re pretty good and beats looking for frozen leaves.

  8. shreen says:

    hi iam in canada is their a place to by a pandan planr?

    • Renyin says:

      Are you still interested to buy one? I can sell you one if you are in Toronto. I grew mine from a baby plant indoor and it is now 2 feet tall.

      • ram says:

        Renyin – I am from Toronto as well. I would be interested to buy a plant and grow at home. Do you still have a plant for sale? Let me know. Please reply to email – Thanks

      • Lorraine says:

        Renyin, I would like to purchase a pandan plant from you. I am from Toronto.Pls email( me back how much and where I can pick it up. thank you.

      • Susan says:

        Hi Renyin, interested in buying a pandan plant. I am in Toronto. Kindly email me,

      • Shafiq says:

        Please let me know where I can buy pandan plant. I would like to grow mine. Are there seeds available. Please respond. Thanks. Shafiq

      • Pyph says:

        Hi Renyin,

        I don’t know if you’re still growing pandan plants, but I’m in Toronto and really would like to buy a plant, please email me! Thank you.

      • Michelle says:

        Hi Renyin if you’re still selling the pandan would you also email me? My email is Thanks!

        • Maria says:

          Hi Michelle, were you able to get the pandan plant from Renyin or anyone? I am interested in buying as well. I can even do an exchange with Indian curry leaf plant if interested. Thanks a lot

      • Maria says:


        I would love to buy one pandan plant if anyone is selling. I live in Toronto/Mississauga. I could even exchange an Indian curry leaf plant if interested. My email address is Thanks

  9. EEFA says:

    anyone has any idea how to find pandan leaves in Kentucky? or probably in somewhere around US

  10. Milk says:

    I live in bay area CA, I alway find fresh Pandan from Lion Chinese/Vietnamise grocery. They name it lau dua, I believe is vietnamise term for Pandan. Well after reading you blog I sure miss Penang especially CNY just around the corner and I just missed all those mouth watering nyonya dishes.

  11. Sibiera says:

    Hi….i live in San Diego, anyone knows where to buy a live pandan plant? i use quite a bit of pandan for cooking. The fresh leaves i bought from 99 Ranch Market is quite expensive. Growing my own will be more cost efficient in the long run.


  12. Dee says:

    Hi Renyin, I live in Canada on the east coast. Do you have any pandan seeds or a plant that is small enough to mail. If not it would be great to know if anyone has been able to find seeds or a plant in Canada that I might be able to order from. I would love to try my hand at growing one. Thanks for any replies. Dee


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