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Gwen Ashley Walters
August, 2009, Page 212
Photo by David Moore
Pandan extract is an ingredient you don’t run across every day, unless you happen to spend copious amounts of time in Thailand. Pandan is as common in Thailand as vanilla is elsewhere, says Thailand native Krisada Fisher, general manager of Malee’s Thai Bistro and creator of this exotic dessert.
Pandan extract (
nam bai toey
) comes from the long, thin leaves of a tropical plant, adding a bright, grass-green color and heady aromas to desserts, sauces and curries. The taste is much more subtle than the color or fragrance – a delicate cross between blanched almonds and jasmine rice.
Malee’s unique, not-too-sweet Pandan custard ($6) is a juxtaposition of shapes, textures and temperatures.
In a surprising, tilt-of-the-head way, a square base of warm, chewy black rice and sticky sweet rice contrasts with a chilled, circular, shockingly green custard crown, gracefully softened by a single red rose petal. If custard seems odd for a Thai dish, blame it on early Portuguese traders who introduced the Thai to the virtue of eggs in dessert.
In fact, Fisher, who’s worked with Malee’s owner Deidre Pain since she opened the restaurant 22 years ago, says Thai food is the ultimate fusion cuisine, borrowing from neighboring culinary powerhouses like China and India, muddled with influences from early European explorers.
Fisher says customers are nudging him to add this recipe to one of Malee’s cooking demos, held the third Saturday of every month. Rumor has it that classes fill up just by word-of-mouth, but even if you don’t care about how the dessert is made, you’ll want to experience this alluring taste sensation for yourself.
Malee’s Thai Bistro
7131 E. Main St.,
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