This lemongrass pandan lemonade is a well balanced sweet, aromatic, citrusy drink.
By Nancy Lopez-McHugh
Late last summer my dear friend Maya, of Foodiva’s Kitchen, sent me a wonderful gift. I received a package of fresh pandan leaves, all the way from Brunie.She sent me the pandan leaves so I could taste the Pandan-Wrapped Chicken that she shared on a guest post for Spicie Foodie. Her recipe was scrumptious recipe, and it was so easy to prepare. With the gifted pandan leaves I also made Pandan Coconut Rice, and that too tasted fantastic. With the remaining leaves I wanted to experiment a little. I’ve kept them gently wrapped in my freezer all these months until the inspiration struck.
Let’s refresh our memories as to what pandan leaves are, pandan also know as screwpine is a tropical plant widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. pandan leaves are long, green and have a fragrant smell that is hard for me to put my finger on. It is a bit nutty, woody but somewhat sweet, really the smell is just incredible and unique. These aromatic leaves are used to flavor both savory and sweet foods. They can be used as a food colorant, and as you can see from this recipe they are also used to make drinks. Sometimes they are referred to the vanilla of the East because they impart a vanilla like taste, though I didn’t think it had a vanilla flavor.
Lemongrass is a plant also common to Asian cuisine. It has a, you guessed it, lemon scent and flavor. Most commonly it is used to flavor curries, soups and drinks. Most of you would recognize lemongrass as a think stalk that is quite firm, pale at the bottom and greener as it extends. If you’ve ever had Thai Tom Yum soup you’ll find the thin woody slices in the soup. For this recipe I’ve used dried lemongrass as that is all I could find. I purchased mine in a spice shop but you could also look in Asian stores or tea shops.
Since I had previously made a meal and side dish using the Pandan leaves, a drink was my next choice. I love lemonade on a steamy summer day but on a grey frigid winter’s night lemonade is not my first drink choice. So to have my lemonade craving satisfied I chilled the drink then only added a few ice cubes. That way I wouldn’t be shivering during dinner. Below is the recipe.
Lemongrass Pandan Drink
2 pandan leaves (screwpine leaves), fresh or defrosted
1/2 cup dried lemongrass, if dried is not available substitute with 1 fresh stalk
5 cups water
2 large lemons juiced
honey, to taste
Panda leaves can be found either fresh or frozen at many Asian stores. Dried lemongrass can also be found there, or look for it in tea or spice shops.
1. Tie the pandan leaves into knots, place inside a large pot with the dried lemongrass and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and strain.
2. Place the strained liquid back in pot or large pitcher, pour in the lemon juice and desired honey. Allow to cool for 15 minutes then place inside refrigerator until ready to serve.
Since it is still winter here I only added a few ice cubes to the already cold drink. If you prefer a cooler drink, place ice cubes in cups before serving.
The combination of pandan leaves, lemongrass and lemon was perfect. To add just a little sweetness without overpowering the flavors and scents of the pandan and lemongrass I used honey. The result was a well balanced sweet, aromatic, citrusy drink. My hubby who isn’t the biggest lemonade drinker also agreed that this unique drink tasted delicious and that the flavors and smells complimented each other well. Of course everyone’s taste is different so adjust ingredient amounts to your taste.Cheers and enjoy!
Nancy Lopez-McHugh is a food blogger, photographer and published author. Most recently she has published "Yummy Pics: A Food Blogger's Guide To Better Photos".