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Substitute for Pandan Leaves?


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Here's a question for you: is there anything out there, and more on the nose anything I've got a chance of finding here in Ecuador, that is an acceptable substitute for Pandan leaves? (I've got access to everything from breadfruits to various jasmines, but Pandan is sadly lacking in this country.) I have a serious hankering for Hainanese Chicken Rice, and every recipe I can find calls for them as a major component of the flavour.

Alternately, will the dish come out tasting proper without them?

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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It will be OK without the pandan leaves, but will be lacking a certain aroma. If you can't get pandan leaves, try using pandan extract. Pandan extract is usually used for making cakes and pastry, so it is often dyed green. You want the non-dyed version. Be warned - pandan extract is pretty powerful, even more powerful than the leaves! You probably need only a drop, if that.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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I don't know if the pandan leaves are a major component - I'd say, obviously, that chicken was a major component... as is sesame oil, ginger and garlic in the chili sauce. The pandan leaves add a little something for sure, but I think you can make a perfectly acceptable chicken rice without it.

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Here's one possibility (+9 answer).
http://snippets.com/what-can-be-used-as-an-alternative-to-the-thai-pandan-with-the-s.htm

Cookbook author Andrea Nguyen advises against using the extract.
http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2008/10/pandan-leaves-la-dua.html

Have you checked the frozen food section of Asian markets? The leaves are available frozen.

As a last resort, if you have access to a Asian restaurant that uses pandan leaves, ask them to sell you some. The leaves are common in Southeast Asian cookery, e.g, Thai, Malaysian.

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No Asian markets in Ecuador, unfortunately - if there were, I wouldn't be in this pickle! And there are only two Thai restaurants here that might have access to Pandan, neither of which would give me the time of day if I asked (they're attached to the really high-end hotels and the owners are kind of dickish about ingredients and sourcing. It's not as though I'd be competing with them, but that's how they perceive it.)

I'll give the bayleaf/basil thing a go and see what that does with the flavour profile. Thanks!

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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No Asian markets in Ecuador, unfortunately - if there were, I wouldn't be in this pickle! And there are only two Thai restaurants here that might have access to Pandan, neither of which would give me the time of day if I asked (they're attached to the really high-end hotels and the owners are kind of dickish about ingredients and sourcing. It's not as though I'd be competing with them, but that's how they perceive it.)

I'll give the bayleaf/basil thing a go and see what that does with the flavour profile. Thanks!

http://www.maangchi.com/shopping/ecuador

^^Have you tried these 3 stores?

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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...every recipe I can find calls for them as a major component of the flavour.

Really? That seems odd. I can find any number of recipes which do not use or call for pandan leaves. In any case you don't NEED pandan leaves to make decent HCR. I myself don't normally use them in making my rice for HCR, even though I can get them (frozen) easily in my area.

In many places in the region of origin of HCR the use of pandan leaves is not universal. In some places (especially Singapore) folks would tend to do so, but in other places (such as in Malaysia) they would not.

Edited by huiray (log)
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...every recipe I can find calls for them as a major component of the flavour.

Really? That seems odd. I can find any number of recipes which do not use or call for pandan leaves. In any case you don't NEED pandan leaves to make decent HCR. I myself don't normally use them in making my rice for HCR, even though I can get them (frozen) easily in my area.

In many places in the region of origin of HCR the use of pandan leaves is not universal. In some places (especially Singapore) folks would tend to do so, but in other places (such as in Malaysia) they would not.

Oh really? really? could you list the recipes do not call for pandan leaves, and to be fair those recipes that DO call for pandan leaves? Maybe we live in different worlds?

It's dangerous to eat, it's more dangerous to live.

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...every recipe I can find calls for them as a major component of the flavour.

Really? That seems odd. I can find any number of recipes which do not use or call for pandan leaves. In any case you don't NEED pandan leaves to make decent HCR. I myself don't normally use them in making my rice for HCR, even though I can get them (frozen) easily in my area.

In many places in the region of origin of HCR the use of pandan leaves is not universal. In some places (especially Singapore) folks would tend to do so, but in other places (such as in Malaysia) they would not.

Oh really? really? could you list the recipes do not call for pandan leaves, and to be fair those recipes that DO call for pandan leaves? Maybe we live in different worlds?

Here is the Google answer set for "Hainanese Chicken Rice": http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&ix=seb&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=hainanese+chicken+rice+recipe

Here are the first eight answers, starting from the top:

http://www.steamykitchen.com/5068-hainanese-chicken-rice.html

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Hainanese-Chicken-Rice-103554

http://rasamalaysia.com/chicken-rice/2/

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/saras-secrets/hainanese-chicken-rice-recipe/index.html

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/127/hainanese_chicken_rice

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/09/hainanese-chicken-rice-singapore-recipe.html

The sixth answer is really the same as the fifth. Of these seven, only one (heh, which is the Rasa Malaysia link, true) calls for pandan leaves and one calls for it as optional. The others do not list it as an ingredient.

I also grew up in Malaysia. I ate many a serving of HCR in many places that did not use pandan leaves while other places used it. If my mother made it at home she alternated between using it and not using it, even though there were two big bushes of pandan right behind the kitchen in our backyard.

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OK, first off, thanks to Glorified Rice! I went to a couple of those stores as I was in Quito on Wednesday, but no joy. However, one has agreed to order me in some extract, the non-green stuff, which means I'm a step closer to the flavour I remember HCR having - incidentally, I did post the question because I feel that pandan is essential to the flavour - without it, HCR tastes somehow off to me.

However: I grew up eating the Singapuri version of HCR, which always contained pandan leaves, and as a result I do consider them essential; as a result, the recipes I was looking at were from Singapore. I will, in the interim, be trying out the Malay style HCR - so thanks to Huiray for providing those links.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Just for the reference lets describe Pandan for those who have not had it...

Ill start...

Like toasted coconut, and toasted Pecans rolled into one, with basmati rice.

Thats my description...What say you?

You know if you live in Ecuador you could probably grow a plant

http://ayardinfortpierce.blogspot.com/2008/03/screw-pine-pandanas-utilis-seeds.html

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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I could grow a plant (even up here at 10,000 feet of altitude; if I can grow bananas here, I can grow just about anything) if I could get a live one into the country. That's far easier said than done, though....

For me, it's the flavour of the smell of freshly baked bread, toasted coconut with cashew, and basmati rice, with just a hint of the smell of jasmine.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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OK, first off, thanks to Glorified Rice! I went to a couple of those stores as I was in Quito on Wednesday, but no joy. However, one has agreed to order me in some extract, the non-green stuff, which means I'm a step closer to the flavour I remember HCR having - incidentally, I did post the question because I feel that pandan is essential to the flavour - without it, HCR tastes somehow off to me.

However: I grew up eating the Singapuri version of HCR, which always contained pandan leaves, and as a result I do consider them essential; as a result, the recipes I was looking at were from Singapore. I will, in the interim, be trying out the Malay style HCR - so thanks to Huiray for providing those links.

You're welcome.

BTW I think you meant "Singaporean", not "Singapuri"; and "Malaysian", not "Malay". ("Malay" refers to an ethnic group, "Malaysian" refers to a nationality. Also, the Malays are not associated with Hainanese Chicken Rice (even if they like to eat it a lot), whereas Chinese-Malaysians are.) Note also that Malaysians do use pandan in their HCR depending on the place, not that they do not at all. The recipes I quoted from the Google answer set include recipes from emigres from both Singapore as well as Malaysia, whether using pandan or not. (There is at least one answer from an apparent Singaporean emigre which does not use pandan) (The answer set includes many other recipes from lots of folks on the subsequent pages of the answer set that use or do not use pandan)

Of course you are free to personally consider pandan a necessary part of HCR but as I mentioned it is not *necessary* for the dish to be called "Hainanese Chicken Rice" and there are plenty of recipes (rather than no recipes, by implication, as you first posted about) that do *not* use pandan for HCR.

Enjoy your HCR!

(when you said that *every* recipe that you could find (without further qualification) had pandan as a "major component of the flavor")

Edited by huiray (log)
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I could grow a plant (even up here at 10,000 feet of altitude; if I can grow bananas here, I can grow just about anything) if I could get a live one into the country. That's far easier said than done, though....

For me, it's the flavour of the smell of freshly baked bread, toasted coconut with cashew, and basmati rice, with just a hint of the smell of jasmine.

Probably be dead by the time you get it but

http://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Hawaiian-Hala-Stilt-Root-Screw-Pine-Pandanus-tectorius-LIVE-Plant-3-Seedlings-/360606818571?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53f5d7610b

^Hawaii

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Here's a question for you: is there anything out there, and more on the nose anything I've got a chance of finding here in Ecuador, that is an acceptable substitute for Pandan leaves? (I've got access to everything from breadfruits to various jasmines, but Pandan is sadly lacking in this country.) I have a serious hankering for Hainanese Chicken Rice, and every recipe I can find calls for them as a major component of the flavour.

Alternately, will the dish come out tasting proper without them?

The closest i can think of as a substitute for pandan is vanilla, but i have not tried it. I would definitely not recommend the use of bay leaves, tarragon, dried basil, etc as substitutes, i would rather do without, as earlier posters have written.
Frozen panden leaves should work, but you may have to double the amount called for in the recipes. Similarly, i cannot comment on extracts or essences, as i have not used them. However, as previously pointed out, make sure that the extracts/essence is the real thing, ie extract of Pandanus Amaryllifolius (although i am not sure they would go into such detail in their list of ingredients), and with nothing else added in, if possible.
The so-called Thai Pandan rice, or Thai jasmine rice, may be as difficult to get in Ecuador as pandan leaves, but if you can get them (import from Canada? they are readily available in chinese/asian grocery stores there), they could provide some of the aroma of pandan leaves, if you are hankering after the ' authentic' HCR.
For what i think you are after, your ultimate solution would be to grow your own pandan leaves, it should be Pandanus Amaryllifolius. I have seen pandan plants for sale in some nurseries and asian grocery stores in and around TO (obviously in the summer months). I am quite sure you can buy it online either US or Canada, but doubt if they will deliver across their borders. You may want to consider smuggling, or importing a pandan plant and go thru whatever loops and expenses necessary to import plants to Ecuador. I am quite sure they will thrive in any equatorial or tropical climate, and if not, then perhaps as indoor plant?
There are many, many varieties or species of pandanus, just make sure it is Pandanus Amaryllifolius (and not any other pandanus, I know i am repeating myself ad nauseum), and if you are buying the physical plant, ie not thru the internet, then just crush a small sample of the leaf and smell it to confirm its what you want. I think gardenweb has info on buying and growing pandanus amaryllifolius... its been awhile since i last checked into that website. Try online nurseries that sell ' exotic' or tropical plants in canada, i am quite sure they stock them, perhaps at a price premium.
IMO, the reason why there are HCR recipes that do not call for pandan leaves could be because of the personal preference of the author or, much more likely, because the recipes are authored by emigres living in countries where pandan leaves are not available.
I find it hard to believe that pandan leaves would NOT be an ingredient in any ' authentic' HCR recipe. The plant is ubiquitous and grows easily in SE Asia (no matter what you do or do not do to it) and is frequently used in SE Asian cuisines. It is used in ethnic Malay cuisine when rice is flavored, eg in nasi lemak, nasi kuning, nasi minyak, etc. HCR is Chinese-Malay fusion cooking and the recipe for the rice is one feature that distinguishes the rice component from the usual Chinese (which is usually plain boiled rice) or the Malay recipes for rice. In Malay or Nonya desserts, pandan is commonly used, and often paired with coconuts and palm sugar.
Other than the rice and pandan leaves, you may want to also concentrate on what distinguishes HCR from any other poached chicken (Chinese or otherwise). HCR is a chicken-y overload experience. The chicken is poached in chicken stock which is then used to cook the rice. The rice is first fried with rendered chicken fat, with garlic and ginger before being boiled/steamed with the stock and pandan leaves. It is quite common to add rendered chicken fat to the 2 condiments, the chilli/garlic/ginger mixture and the ginger by itself.
And of course, the chicken. It should have an exfoliating scrub with coarse salt, for aesthetic reasons and i believe it denatures the skin such that if you use the multi-dipping method (alternating between hot and cold water) you could get a chicken with skin that is thick and plump with gelatinous collagen.

It's dangerous to eat, it's more dangerous to live.

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