Tastier than veggies, greener than ectoplasm: it's Pandan!

Pandan at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Pandan at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

Ok, so here's what I love about Chinatown Ice Cream Factory:  it's always keeping me on my toes.

Last week, finding myself in Chinatown once more with yet another two-hour window to kill, I visited this old friend of an ice cream shop to quench my throat on a scorching 90 degree day.  I already knew all the flavors, and I ran through them in my head.  Maybe I'll get the Red Bean, or the Green Tea.  Or maybe I'll go crazy and try their vanilla!  And then, a small little sign on the window of the case:

I asked to try it.  It was really delicious.  When I asked the guy behind the counter what flavor would compliment it, and he suggested chocolate, I yawned, so I got it by itself, and then wandered over to Colombus Park where old men gathered around a table playing mah-jong, and a woman and a friend sang their own personal karaoke over a portable microphone, and sat beside a man who compulsively decided to show off his push ups to his companion.  Ahh, New York.

And amongst this chaos I thought, how can I explain how this tastes in words?  You probably won't believe me when I tell you that I couldn't think up any adjectives.  All I could honestly come up with to describe it was "sweet" and "nutty."  But not almondy.  And not peanutty.  It was - well. . . unique.  A flavor all its own.

An internet search shows me that Pandan is used in Southeast Asian countries, where it is as common as vanilla in the US.  And while several people took a crack at it, no one could quite agree on how to describe its flavor.  It gives Basmati rice its nuttiness and coconut rice its sweetness, but when a chef on Yahoo stated it was "floral with a piney overtone" I pretty much stopped looking.

So, only one things's for sure.  Only the Chinatown Ice Cream factory would take a flavoring that comes from this:

. . . and turn it into the most delicious ice cream flavor un-replicated this side of the hemisphere.  In the immortal words of almost everyone on the internet, well, that's just. . . "unique."