Asian ingredients can confuse with all the various names in their native sầu languages & then the English term(s) for them.

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This afternoon, Phu emailed asking for the English name for lá dứa, a comtháng southern Viet ingredient. They’re called pandan leaf in English. They’re also called screwpine leaf, which isn’t very nice sounding!

Dứa is also the name for pinetáo bị cắn in Vietnamese & I once caught my father explaining khổng lồ my non-Viet husband that lá dứa were the leaves of the pinetáo Apple. That’s wrong, Daddy. Stop. They’re not related! A pretty full listing of names for pandan is at wikipedia.com.

Pandan leaves (Pandanus latifolius, P.. amaryllifolius) look lượt thích gladiola leaves. They’re narrow, long & pointed at the tip. When attached khổng lồ their stems, they resemble giant green feather dusters. (See the top phokhổng lồ taken at a neighborhood wet market in Saigon last March 2008.)

They have a grassy herby flavor và can be tied in a knot & added lớn rice, both long grain & sticky rice. Cooks also use them in desserts by extracting their liquid, traditionally done by pounding on the leaves but I vì it in the blender or mini-chopper with a little water. The green result is striking in color, kind of like super wheat grass in smell & looks. Once cooked, the color turns to lớn a celadon green, & there’s a subtle hint of the herby quality.

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Below is strained pandan juice that I got from cutting up 4 to lớn 6 large leaves into lớn 1-inch pieces và whirring with 50% cup water.

Many cooks add a little green food coloring lớn cheer up the pandan extract but the result is a little Christmas-y lớn me. Pandan leaves can also be used to wrap food up in & then grilled, though I’ve not been overly impressed with that application. Pandan can be woven into small containers too.

In the Vietnamese kitchen, pandan is basically a southern ingredient. I’ve sầu seen reference lớn it in old cookbooks that hotline for lining steamer trays with the leaves và then steaming sticky rice over it for flavor. In fact, an alternative name for lá dứa is cây cơm nếp (tree for sticky rice). Abroad, pandan is mostly available frozen, though I can get fresh in San Jose and Orange County, California. Floridians have told me that the plant grows very well there.

 Aside from culinary uses, it seems that pandan may be good for controlling diabetes too. That’s the lademo from the Vietnamese community, per Phu who was asking about the English name for lá dứa. Drinking a tea made with pandan leaf has helped a few people combat or reduce the threat of diabetes – a growing problem amuốn Vietnamese Americans whose diets have gotten richer and lives more sendetary since their arrival in the States. Phu will be trying it out và reporting back!

Though I watch what I eat, I frankly focus on the food more. I was raised by a mom who hailed from northern Vietphái nam so I'm relatively new to pandan. Over the past year or so, I've sầu been experimenting & here are some tips:

When using pandan for sweets, I’ve found that it marries exceptionally well with coconut milk, especially when a touch of vanilla is added khổng lồ bring out the herbal quality of both the coconut milk and the pandan. Make sure lớn add some sugar & 1 khổng lồ 2 pinches of salt.Use a lot of leaves or the result will just be so subtle you’ll think the leaves weren't worth the trouble. Try khổng lồ avoid the bottled extract, which tastes of chemicals.Smash the leaf a little before knotting it & adding it to lớn cook rice, etc, lớn ensure that the essence releases.

What are your favorite ways or tips for using the green leaf?

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