Often dubbed the "vanilla of Southeast Asia", the pandan plant or pandanus amaryllifolius is widely used in cuisines across the region. Though its long and narrow leaves are inedible, its soft, sweet aroma and green hue are extracted to flavour and colour a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. While there is a growing repertoire of modern pandan treats including pandan Basque cheesecake or even pandan crinkle cookies, the ingredient is central to many traditional dishes across Southeast Asia.
1. Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak is an appropriate name for this iconic breakfast staple. Widely considered the national dish of Malaysia (but also popular in Singapore), the hearty dish marries bold flavours from roasted peanuts, fried ikan bilis (anchovies), spicy sambal, silky eggs, and a selection of viands like beef rendang or fried chicken. In addition to the cool cucumber slices, the pandan-scented coconut rice acts as a reprieve from all the intense flavours of the other components, helping to prevent an overwhelmed palette.