Pandanus Crème Brûlée – Kem Nướng Lá Dứa




Ah, crème brûlée, I remember you well. I first tasted you on a big-girl date wearing big-girl heels and blue eye shadow. We were so young (and so regrettably unfashionable) then, weren’t we? And now, that boyfriend-turned-psycho is but a distant memory and I’m no longer a size 2, yet and yet, you’re still with me, after all this time. How nice of you…

You know, I’m a self-professed vanilla custard purist. I don’t go for the lemongrass/thyme/verbeena/yuzu/sha la la la/sha la la la- infusions. I want plain, vanilla bean custard – c’est tout. But, for no apparent reason, I bucked all that and made crème brûlée with one of my favorite flavorings – pandanus (Lá Dứa.)




Pandanus is a fragrant, green leaf, sometimes referred to as Asian vanilla because of its sweet, earthy perfume. Vietnamese recipes call for steeping the leaves in coconut milk, soy milk, silken tofu or sticky rice for various dessert dishes. It can also be used in savory dishes where it is steamed with jasmine or basmati rice or as a wrapper for fish, seafood or meat. I don’t know how to best describe its flavor and perfume but I know it’s one of my favorite scents. (If, by chance, anyone has the Dior or Chanel hookup, a pandanus-scented perfume would be really awesome.)

I’m very, very pleased with the flavor of this dessert and my heretical leap. The pandanus flavor was not too strong or overpowering as I was fearing but just enough to make me want to hair spray my bangs and wear a cropped, pink tank top all over again. It’s that good.





adapted from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2

INGREDIENTS (6 servings):

  • 4 cups (1 L) cream [I used Calders]
  • 7 pandanus leaves (if fresh is not available, you can find these in the freezer — oftentimes near the frozen banana leaves at many Asian grocery stores) — tied into a knot.
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (225 g) superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup (112 g) superfine sugar (for the topping)


Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the cream and pandanus leaf bundle in a saucepan over low heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Slowly pour over the cream mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes or until thick enough to coat the pack of a spoon. Remove the pandanus leaves and strain the mixture into 6 x 3/4 cup (each 6 fl. oz/185ml) capacity ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the custard is set. [You can test by gently wiggling the ramekin – the outer edge should be almost set and the center should jiggle like Jell-O]

Place the ramekins on a baking tray, sprinkle with the extra sugar and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Place ice cubes in the tray around the ramekins, place under a preheated broiler and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is melted and golden.

Check out these blog posts:

Crème brûlée with Jen’s amazing step-by-step photos at Use Real Butter

Crème brûlée from Nordljus

Crème brûlée from WhatsForLunchHoney

Bon appétit!



19 Responses to “Pandanus Crème Brûlée – Kem Nướng Lá Dứa”

  1. Kevin Says:

    That crème brûlée looks really good. I have never had panadus. I will have to look for it so that I can try it.

  2. Rasa Malaysia Says:

    Beautiful and I bet they are great, and very aromatic, too. 🙂

  3. mycookinghut Says:

    Seems to be a great idea!! I am sure my taste buds will like this 😉

  4. m3c Says:

    Beautiful, I’ve never made this with lá dứa before. I will have to try it one day. Thanks

  5. Warda Says:

    Love the crust of sugar on top. And the photo of balck on white/white on black. Your creme brulee looks so silky dangerous, and the pandenous can double as a whip, too! Ok, now I am the psycho 😉

  6. Jen Says:

    LOL! Your opening paragraph would have had me shooting my coffee through my nose if I actually drank coffee 🙂 I’ve never had an ex turn psycho, but I did have to deal with “the crier”… I thought I was a purist, but then I remembered all of the flavored creme brulees I’ve enjoyed and I think I’m just a sucker for creme brulee in general! I have never ever ever heard of pandanus before and it sounds so enticing. Like a subtle tea-ish flavor?? Curious now… You’re so masterful with your culinary creations and your pink tank top 😉

  7. Hillary Says:

    Ooooh! I love making creme brulee, I’ll have to give this one a try!

  8. Wandering Chopsticks Says:

    Size 2. Ah, that was a lifetime ago for me as well. 😦

    Too many creme brulees me thinks. I’m not a purist. I’ll happily take your la dua creme brulee. I like coffee, chocolate, mango, and lychee creme brulees too. Haven’t met one I haven’t eaten yet. 😉

  9. Fearless Kitchen Says:

    This looks great! I’ll admit that I never get creme brulee anymore. I first had it when I was in Catalonia and I guess I’m apprehensive that it just won’t be the same here. I need to get over that and try yours – if its flavored with pandanus I won’t be expecting the same taste, and while I’m not aware of having tried pandanus I’m sure I’d like it.

  10. holybasil Says:

    Kevin – Thanks – I think you should be able to find it rather easily in you area.

    RasaMalaysia – Thanks – I love the aroma of pandanus in this dessert.

    Mycookinghut – Thanks – I think you would like this. I’ll have to try your Kaya recipe with pandan too.

    M3c – Thanks and let me know if you do.

    Tiens, Warda – haha. I’m glad you liked the black/white thingy – I dunno, I felt like I couldn’t get the photo right – so I just used both photos. Kinda fun in the end.

    Jen – Ah, the *crier* — you crack me up with these nicknames. Pierre likes to give everyone nicknames too. It’s like an identifier+back story 🙂

    In California, I used to buy fresh-made soy milk that was infused with pandanus. My mom didn’t care for it, but I liked it’s flavor and scent. I think they added a little green food coloring to give it a jade green color (annoying, but whatever). And yes, I think subtle tea-ish is a great way to describe its aroma. I hope you’ll look out for it the next time you venture out of the sticks 🙂

    I’m a custard purist no longer, I guess.

    Hillary – Thanks. It is fun to make – easier than flan, I think.

    WanderingChopsticks – I’m with ya, I don’t think I’d turn down a crème brûlée, no matter what.

    Fearless Kitchen – Thanks! Yes, I hear you on your apprehension of eating things you’ve had on your travels. I think food is often the sum of our all senses – our location – the air – the people around us — everything. These blissful experiences of eating wonderful food can pale in comparison when we recreate them or order them here but I think it’s worth trying anyway.

  11. Shayne Says:

    now I am curious to try Pandanus, it sounds so nice.

  12. Rosa Says:

    I love pandan! That crème brûlöe must taste wonderful!



  13. holybasil Says:

    Shayne – Thanks – maybe I can bring some to our get together and you can try it 🙂

    Rosa, Thanks! I have to say, it did taste lovely. Cheers 🙂

  14. Passionate Eater Says:

    What an innovative addition!! And I am so happy that the “boyfriend turned psycho” is no longer stalking you or involved in your life. I have one of those too, but I agree, creme brulee will trump over all evils, including bad exes!

  15. White On Rice Couple Says:

    We get back from vacation and find this beautiful creme brulee waiting for us, yeah!!! Love pandanus and my favorite is a mung bean/pandanus drink at our local viet cafe. Yum!
    Todd especially loves making creme brulee because he gets to pull out his little cooking “blow torch” to fire up the brown sugar topping. The guy loves his kitchen toys!

  16. holybasil Says:

    PassionateEater – I’m with ya, girlfriend 🙂

    WORC – Oh, thanks! I don’t have a blow torch (I’ve got plenty of ma’ own hot air) 😉 Now you’ve got me craving the mung bean drink!

  17. Denise & Lenny Says:

    GREAT site and photos – love it! The Creme Brulee is fantastic! We love to make it at home, I usually use a recipe from Fringale in San Francisco; but, will have to give this a whirl. We love it so much we even bring it camping – can you believe that one. It is our “thing”! Check it out …

  18. parsnipsaplenty Says:

    Fun egg pictures! Looks lovely.

  19. anzianienonsolo Says:

    Hello everybody! I can’t find fresh pandanus here, but I have got the essence. Does anyone know how many drops should I put in this to use it instead of fresh leaves and get, more or less, the same taste? Thanks for your help! 🙂

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