22 Sep2012

I always wonder what the original inspiration, flavor combination, or most basic and unadulterated version of a popular dish must be like. I try to make it the most natural or logical or basic way, then compare that to the modern shortcut that typically achieves cult status but is but a shadow of the original… Buko Pandan desserts in Filipino eateries and restaurants are extremely popular these days, and I rarely if ever saw this as a child. So it’s a last 20-30 year phenomena, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

I understand why people take shortcuts, it’s convenient and I do it myself sometimes, but I also wanted to see just how difficult it was to do it basically from scratch, or near scratch, and see if there was a noticeable difference in taste and quality. So first, I purchased unflavored gelatin and made my own pandan infused water from four leaves of pandan (screwpine) from the garden. I simply cut up the pandan, added it to 3 cups of water and let it come to a boil. A minute or two later, I turned off the flames, and let the leaves infuse the water with their flavor, a rather strong, almost medicinal aroma fills your kitchen. Some folks might find the aroma a bit of a turn off, but many others find it appealing.

Following the manufacturers instructions for the jelly, I added slightly less pandan water than called for to make a firm jelly. Notice the almost near absence of green color. You cannot imagine just how MUCH green food coloring is put into the instant pandan flavored gelatins in the grocery. A phenomenal amount of food coloring, and probably artificial flavoring as well.

If you must have a tinge or more of green, then add just a single drop of green food coloring to each package of gelatin. Let this set in the fridge for say half an hour until solid. Cut into cubes and place in a bowl. I LOVED the near sea-glass green of this jelly. It was extremely subtle in color and yet sufficiently aromatic and tasty… not an intensely faked out pandan flavor that one gets used to using pre-flavored gelatins. Add more pandan leaves or leave them in the water longer if you prefer a stronger pandan flavor. I liked the subtle approach.

The the gelatin cubes I added about 4 ounces or half a small bottle worth of homemade macapuno preserves, some milk and heavy cream and no more sugar or condensed milk. Chill well before serving. This was wonderful. The macapuno took the place of buko and sugar but added that distinct flavor of the odd nut. The dessert was still sweet, yet creamy and uplifting, not heavy. A home run. And something I hope to put in our restaurants if I can make enough macapuno preserves. It honestly wasn’t much harder to make than using the boxed pandan gelatine, and yet it resulted in something much more obviously natural and homemade. Delicious.

I have made the instant version before, see this previous post.



  1. greens_blossoms says:

    As they say the “walang kamatayan” buko pandan dessert…. I make my pandan flavored gelatin from scratch too – pandan leaves from the garden… If using local gelatin, there is also a green unflavored gelatine… Will try the macapuno preserves next time… I only use buko and the usual nestle cream and condensed milk …I add small sago too ..sometimes I add lychees …refreshing dessert!

    Sep 22, 2012 | 2:53 pm


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  3. calorie-shmalorie says:

    i blitz the pandan and water in a blender first so i get a more pronounced color and flavor. must strain with a fine sieve though.

    Sep 22, 2012 | 3:38 pm

  4. jadewill says:

    try making the gelatin by replacing water with buko juice…… champion yummo!

    Sep 22, 2012 | 5:43 pm

  5. denise says:

    aunts and some friends use the already green-tinged dried gulaman and then mixed with the pandan water until properly dissolved…sometimes it’s hard to gauge the amount of water to use since no instructions come with the package

    Sep 22, 2012 | 8:18 pm

  6. marilen says:

    I have loved the pandan buko confection on visits to Manila. How much yummier your home made version must be!

    Sep 22, 2012 | 9:30 pm

  7. EJ says:

    Wish more people would go back to basics like you and your readers do, MM. Like the shagreen background, by the way.

    P.S. Did you mean to type ”phenomenon” in the first paragraph?

    Sep 22, 2012 | 10:40 pm

  8. millet says:

    and that green shagreen box beside it just sets the greenness – great setting!

    Sep 22, 2012 | 11:06 pm

  9. PITS, MANILA says:

    i make simple syrup with pandan, then use that to sweeten buko juice …

    Sep 23, 2012 | 7:27 am

  10. Connie C says:

    Off off topic MM, sorry, but I was just thinking, while Cebu has your zubuchon to be proud of and you to be congratulated for, here is a dark side of Cebu I wish we did not hear about :

    Blood Ivory and the Cebu ( Philippine) connection:


    Sep 23, 2012 | 8:48 am

  11. Marketman says:

    Connie, fascinating and extremely disturbing article. I have featured ivory pieces before, here, here and here, but am sure they are at least 100-150+ years old and antiques. Have not and would not buy any ivory now. But some of the characterizations of priests in that article does make one one to wretch… evil.

    My mother had a beautiful ivory faced and hands Santo Nino that she sewed the velvet robes for and had in her room for many decades. It was stolen shortly after she passed away. I can’t imagine what the thieves were thinking other than the money they could get if it was sold or pawned. For the ultimate purchaser, I suppose they look the other way and don’t wonder where the item came from. I hope the concept of “gaba” or “ruin” is stronger than we all wish for… :( Of course the obvious question follows that one wonders where my grandmother purchased these items from dealers and collectors, if it had not itself had an equally sordid past before that…

    Sep 23, 2012 | 10:14 am

  12. Betchay says:

    This is one of my fave dessert! Macapuno instead of fresh buko sounds interesting…will have to try this soon.
    @Connie C: Shame! can I be BeepBeep (the road runner) now and bury my head in the sand?

    Sep 23, 2012 | 10:26 am

  13. Cristy says:

    Yummy, MM! I will try to find screwpine here (I’m sure I’ll be able to) so that I can make this version of buko pandan.

    Connie C, thank you for providing the link on Blood Ivory, I read it and yes, it IS disturbing.

    Sep 23, 2012 | 2:45 pm

  14. bagito says:

    Sarap naman ng macapuno pandan. You’re right, MM. It’s a newer phenom since wala pang buko pandan when I left Pinas in ’88.

    @Connie C, that article was truly cringe-worthy. :( Thanks for sharing.

    Sep 24, 2012 | 5:26 am

  15. GerryT says:

    My favorite pandan….. ssiiggh another craving…. (^-^) Ty for sharing MM!

    Sep 24, 2012 | 10:58 pm

  16. GerryT says:

    Connie C ty for sharing the link on Blood Ivory. Yess indeed the dark side of Cebu.

    Sep 24, 2012 | 11:13 pm

  17. Clarissa says:

    I have always used fresh pandan to make mine, but I find the flavor a bit lacking though. So I cheat and add some of the pandan extract. And to think I use around 10 leaves of pandan for mine, and strip them into long strips. Maybe I need to follow your extraction process more :)

    Sep 26, 2012 | 2:24 pm

  18. mitzuy says:

    Hi, MM – Beautiful pictures as always. I’d like to share my story about a buko pandan I prepared for the Office Int’l Day. Almost everyone liked it except one of the bosses who said,’ it’s nice but it’s too green’. Of course, I have to put a few drops of green pandan flavour to my buko pandan to make it look colorful.

    Sep 26, 2012 | 2:50 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Connie C, if you haven’t heard yet, the whole ivory/priest issue has BLOWN UP in Cebu… read story in Inquirer…

    Sep 27, 2012 | 9:02 am

  20. cris l. says:

    hi marketman! long time no post. work seems to be getting all my time. anyway, in one of the farms near ours in lanao, there’s a variety of coconut called buko pandan. I think they got it from malaysia or indonesia (i’m not so sure anymore) but the juice of the nut is still buko juice but it has a very very faint pandan flavor, as a result of some cross pollination or some other agri-experiment. We were lucky enough to purchase a seedling before and have had one tree near our house for our natural buko pandan. :)

    Sep 27, 2012 | 10:54 am

  21. ConnieC says:

    Yes, MM, thanks. My sister called me about it this morning.

    Sep 27, 2012 | 10:59 am

  22. Rina says:

    hi MM, I think this dessert was first served at Cafe Adriatico in the 80’s as Claude’s Dream (after Claude Tayag) so you are right that its origins were in the last 20-30 years lang.

    Sep 27, 2012 | 12:55 pm

  23. Mandy says:

    I agree with you on buco pandan being a new phenomenon. I don’t think I’ve ever tried buco pandan till I was in my 30s (and I’m still in my 30s), or perhaps I exaggerate, maybe I’ve had some pandan flavored food when I was in my 20s (and it was not even rice).

    Sep 29, 2012 | 12:15 am

  24. Clarissa says:

    Tried making this tonight. Store bought macapuno just doesn’t cut it. I ended up delaying the dish for tomorrow when we’ve got buko instead. :s

    Oct 4, 2012 | 10:05 pm

  25. janmarc says:

    i love pandan

    Nov 27, 2012 | 1:11 pm

  26. khrishyne says:

    i made this with store brought macapuno, i overdid the cream, so its very bidli, lots of leftovers. since typhoon is all over Visayas, work was cancelled after lunch . upon getting home, i thot of making pie. since the salad has been occupying freezer space for some time, i reduced it. after reduction,i added milk, eggs and sugar, with more whites to lend firmness. im using it as filling. tomorrow will come the verdict

    Dec 4, 2012 | 8:49 pm


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