On a recent weekend trip to a nursery called the Green Mall, we picked up some nice little plants and some gems of wisdom left behind from our forefathers. Among other things, we picked up an Allspice plant and a Pandanus shrub. It all started when Dad mentioned a ‘payesh pata’ his grandma used to cook ‘paayesh’ (a Bengali version of rice pudding) with. Man at the counter jumped at the opportunity and sold us the ‘Pandanus’. That’s right, the pandan leaf, that flavours desserts and rice-based dishes across SE Asia, has always been growing right in our backyard. Our ancestors would have been guffawing at us importing pandan flavoring agents from abroad. As it appears, the pandan leaf contains concentrated amounts of 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, the same aroma compound found in basmati rice, and being such the pandan leaf was often leveraged as a taste enhancer for rice based dishes such as the payesh, especially to make up for the absence of aromatic (and expensive) rice varieties. (Traditionally the payesh is best made with the short grain aromatic variety called gobindobhog rice)

 And what’s more, the plant does a very neat job of doubling up as a decorative green patch for a corner of your living room. Pretty and unpretentiously useful.I’ve often been adding the twig of pandan while cooking my rice based dishes eversince. Today I made an aromatic soup and a twig of this thing elevated the taste to a whole new level.

Ingredients: (For two)

  • Shiitake mushrooms – 2-3 nos
  • Garlic cloves: 3 nos
  • Green chilly: 1 no
  • Pandan leaf: an inch of it
  • Lemon grass: a twig (optional)
  • Noodles: a handful(I used Japanese ramen)
  • Spring onions for garnish
  • Oil: 1 tsp
  • Salt
  • Sugar

Method:

  • Heat a tsp of oil (I used olive oil)
  • Add crushed garlic cloves
  • Snip and add dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Add enough water for two bowls of soup
  • When the water starts boiling, drop in the pandan leaf and lemon grass (can be replaced with lemon zest)
  • Drop in the noodles and let it simmer for 4-5 mins
  • Season as per taste
  • Garnish with chopped spring onions
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