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.