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I've just returned from a year-long trip abroad, and now have some interesting recipes to try. I was thinking of making Indonesian kelopon but I'm having a hard time finding one ingredient.

The ingredient I'm having trouble with is pandan extract. It's an extract of the pandan leaf. While cooking in Indonesia and Malaysia, I was able to get small squeeze bottles of it -- between the sizes of a squeeze bottle of food coloring and a small bottle of vanilla extract, up to maybe 2 or 3 fluid ounces. This is what I'm trying to get my hands on.

Back in the states (I'm in Baltimore for a month), I'm having a difficult time finding this. I've found that McCormick sells a correctly sized bottle that the front claims is pandan extract, but the ingredients label indicates it's primarily propylene glycol, water, and sugar, with some imitation pandan and food coloring. This is the only thing I can find in brick-and-mortar stores.

On the internet (Amazon, really), all the small bottles of extract turn out to be imitation with similar ingredients as the McCormick. They do have real extract: but only in 14.4 ounce cans. Since the ingredients are only water and pandan (and sometimes sugar), it's not shelf stable. It's also more extract than I'd use in 10 years.

So. Is it possible to buy small quantities of real, non-imitation pandan extract (preferably without added sugar but I can live with it, definitely with no propylene glycol) in the US or on the internet to be shipped to the US? Do they even sell such small quantities?

Or, alternatively, is it possible to convert the pandan paste or dried pandan leaves to extract form without overly-specialized equipment?

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From the recipes I've seen, it looks like the pandan extract tends to be made from fresh leaf and water - essentially it's a juice. This might make it easier to substitute rather than if it had required other ingredients or preparation, use of alcohol or other solvents.

So, it looks like the pandan paste is the nearest substitute - the recipes look like it can be made from pandan leaf and water, it is just blended and kept - simple straining should make the extract. Of course, commercial processed paste may have preservatives and stabilizers and such, but it might be workable anyway... or perhaps you can find a good product with few of the extra additives.

Another alternative is to pick up pandan leaves - frozen ones are available, even online, though it might take some looking, extra charges in shipping, or something like that. Fresh might be available somewhere, but it's likely harder to depend on and will perhaps take more work. Frozen will work for most applications - especially since freezing usually helps with extracting juice (extract, recall), will store better, and will perhaps be easier to find.

If you're using the dried leaves, you can soak them, boil, essentially make tea. The flavor is weaker, and you will need more to get the same flavor, but since the dried leaves are just pandan - you should be able to reconstitute the leaves and extract the flavor the same way. Dried pandan is available as a tea, it just takes a bit of looking.

As for the pandan extract, the advice I found was to buy the large cans of good, pure extract, and portion it off (like ice cubes) and freeze. It will store well - at least as well as frozen leaves - and it will have just the pure flavor, so more flavor for the same amount of freezer space.

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