Recipe location: Majuro, Marshall Islands.
We arrived in the Marshall Islands 3 weeks ago. We are settled in, but one thing remains difficult for us: finding fresh produce. The vegetables in Majuro are imported from either Guam, or Hawaii by cargo ship, and because they spend much time at sea they are frozen. Freezing fresh whole vegetables is never a good idea, the vegetables rot before they make it onto the shelves. When possible, we opt for local produce. Majuro has few native fresh vegetables, but they do have some fruit and among these is the pandanus fruit.
Pandanus, or Pandanus tectorius, bears a fruit that look like a giant pinecone, it is made up of little wedge-like phalanges, commonly referred to as 'keys'. Each fruit has about 40-80 keys, the part of the keys that is attached to the core is soft, and a bright orange colour. In the Marshall Islands, people suck on the orange part which is sweet and tastes of cane sugar. The soft part can also be cut, and processed into juice. It is possible to make the juice yourself, this blog post explains the process at length.
I don't have the space, nor the tools to prepare pandanus juice, but a store in Majuro sells frozen purée. This is what I used to prepare this pandanus fruit cake and the topping that goes with it. What does it taste like? It is similar to mango, sweet, but also bitter.
I bought a generous portion of frozen pandanus purée, and couldn't use most of it in the bread so I used the rest to make a topping. The chia seeds don't act as a thickener and can be omitted, but they add nutritional value to the meal.
If you ever come across some pandanus fruit, please try it! Making pandanus juice from scratch requires some muscle and serious dedication, but in places where it grows, chances are you'll also find a 'processed' version.
Pandanus Tectorius photo credit: U. S. Geological Survey, USGS /Forest & Kim Starr.