A journey to the East awakened us to the possibilities of the vibrant nutty sweet pandan reed. In Southeast Asia, pandan leaves are used to lend a tropical vivacity to savoury dishes and desserts. It’s known as Asia’s answer to vanilla, so we wanted to try it in a chocolate! For Penang, we’ve added coconut to the ganache, and encased it in delicious coconut milk chocolate for a vegan-friendly exotic fusion of flavour. A new horizon for us and, we hope, for you in your chocolate adventure with us.
Inspiration for this chocolate
When we started in 2013, one of the chocolates we did was called “Penang” and it’s a pandan dark chocolate. We took it out of our collection in 2015 to make way for some new flavours – it was the year when we introduced some of our big hits such as New York (Apple & Calvados Caramel), Hong Kong (Soy Caramel) and Kagoshima (Yuzu & Pink Peppercorn). It was sad to remove Penang from our collection at the time, but it was the right thing to do, as we wanted to concentrate on the quality in those early days of our business rather than just making too many different flavours. However, we knew deep down that one day we would bring Penang back.
It feels right this year and so we have created “Penang 2.0” – the pandan is still there but this time it’s paired with coconut milk in the ganache. You’ll often find these 2 ingredients together in Southeast Asian cooking. What’s even more exciting is that this is our first vegan milk chocolate (the milk chocolate couverture is made with coconut milk).
Pandan is often referred to as Asia’s answer to vanilla, due to its sweet and aromatic flavour. It comes in the form of long green leaves – it is usually not eaten, but instead used to flavour sweets, cakes, rice or even savoury dishes (we love throwing in a few pandan leaves when we make Asian curries). You may have seen some green sponge cakes or puddings in Asian grocery stores or restaurants, and they are often pandan cakes/puddings.
Despite its green leafy appearance, pandan has a fragrant and slightly nutty flavour – it is difficult to describe the taste as there’s nothing really out there to compare it with, but ask most people from South-East Asia and they will be able to identify this taste. It works beautifully with coconut, and so we decided to infuse the pandan leaves in coconut cream to create the basis for the ganache. Next it’s to decide on the chocolate to use!
It’s not often that we come across vegan milk chocolate that we like, let alone consider it suitable for our chocolates, but we found one about 18 months ago that we thought would be something worth exploring further. This vegan milk chocolate is made in Switzerland using cacao from Ghana, and the “milk” is coconut milk, with a bit of hazelnut to give it a more complex nutty note. Often we find coconut milk chocolate has too much coconut taste in it and mask the chocolate flavour, but this one still has a beautiful chocolate flavour with an underlying coconut tone. We decided to try this chocolate out for our Penang, and everything comes together so well.
The colours of this chocolate reflect the ingredients: green for pandan, white (and the chocolate colour underneath) for the coconut. The colouring technique is different from our previous creations – the blurred pattern represents the continuum of flavour from pandan through coconut to the vegan milk chocolate. (It does make taking photos of this chocolate rather interesting as they all look as if they are out of focus!)