Growing up, we used to take road trips with my family over the weekend. We always drove through the city early Saturday mornings making a pit stop in Chinatown before heading onto one of the bridges or through the tunnels out of the city. Our breakfast ritual was congee at a hole in the wall joint on Madison Street, then we would load up at the Chinese bakery on freshly made cha siu bao (BBQ pork buns) and swiss rolls for the ride—boy, I loved those spongy cakes rolled up with the light, whipped cream filling.
Those swiss rolls usually came in a yellow sponge cake or a green sponge cake option. The pandan extract is what makes it green and what gives it its peculiar earthy and nutty taste. It's often said that it's the " vanilla bean' of South East Asia, commonly used in pastries for not only coloring but for its aroma as well. Pandan leaves are used in cooking too so that one can grill, fry, and steam their pandan wrapped fish and meats.
You can buy pandan extract at the Asian stores but they usually contain some artificial coloring. I like to go the natural route as much as possible...
...and after having one too many boxes of industrial packaged swiss rolls from our local Asian markets (thankful at least that there is the pandan option) over the past year, I decided to see if I could conjure up a piece of my childhood memory by squeezing out some fresh, green pandan extract to experiment in my next homemade adventure.
INGREDIENTS//Yields 1/3 cup extract (approx. 7 tablespoons)
• 9 Pandan leaves
• 1/2 cup water
Rinse your pandan leaves in a big bowl. Be sure to get out all the dirt and sand.
Using your kitchen shears, cut up your pandan leaves into 1/2 inch pieces.
Put it all in the blender, add some water. Pulse, stopping occasionally to swipe down the sides. Repeat this process until you get a dark green, saturated liquid, making sure all the leaves are finely pulverized.
Pour the pulverized pandan and its liquid into a strainer, and with the backside of a spoon press down on the leaves to extract the liquid.
Pour the liquid into a small glass jar and seal tightly. This can be stored in the fridge up to a week.