Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Simple Syrups

I’ve been thinking a lot about lemongrass lately. I have this really weird aversion to lemons (they taste dirty to me), but I love the delicate perfume of lemon grass. I was thinking that lemongrass lemonade sounds particularly refreshing and summery. Then I had an idea to make lemongrass simple syrup to mix with sparkling water and/or vodka for my upcoming bday bash.

Then, per my usual pattern, I turned something quite simple into something a little more complex. How about if I make all kinds of different flavored syrups? They can all have Asian-ish ingredients, since my party has a Vietnamese theme. I spent a very sunny weekend in my apartment, boiling down sugar and water.

Here are the combos I ended up with:

Lemongrass and Lemon Zest Simple Syrup
9 stalks of lemongrass (chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This ended up tasting exactly how I imagined it: fresh, bright and summery.

Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lime Simple Syrup
6 kaffir lime leaves (julienned), 1 regular lime (quartered), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I’ve never cooked with kaffir lime leaf before, but I found fresh ones at Uwajimaya. They were really beautiful and strange because they are two leaves, joined together, end-to-end. Unfortunately, they tasted more medicinal than I expected, so at the last minute I added in a regular lime to bring out a more fruity flavor.

Pandan Leaf Simple Syrup
8 pandan leaves (chopped), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I was intrigued after reading da*xiang’s recipe for Nasi Lemak. I had never even heard of pandan before, but it sounded interesting, so when I saw them fresh at Uwajimaya, I snapped them up. They had the most incredible and elusive scent. Whenever I held them up to my nose, they’d smell like bitter, cut grass, but when they weren’t as close they released a perfume like basmati rice. I was head over heels for the smell, but the plant itself tasted bitter. Oddly enough, the simple syrup ended up tasting like the smell and not the taste (whew).

Ginger and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
1/2 cup grated ginger, 2 cups brown sugar and 3 cups water
This sounded like a great idea, but I think simple syrups are better off made with white sugar instead of brown. Somehow it just didn’t taste sweet enough. Also, I probably should have cut the ginger into coins instead of grating it because the ginger really overpowered the syrup. This one could go either way when mixed into a drink—either delicious and interesting or overpowering and medicinal.

Mint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup of mint leaves (whole), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This was my second favorite after the lemongrass. Pure and simple mint.

I can’t wait to mix them into drinks!

9 Responses to “Simple Syrups”

  1. stef says:

    i’m glad you found yourself some pandan leaves. in singapore, we make a pandan chiffon cake with juice from the pandan leaves – very fragrant. i don’t know how the bitter taste just becomes non existent after applying heat. but my mum has always used pandan leaves for her simple syrup and desserts.

    that lemongrass simple syrup sounds like an excellent idea. as for lemons – i think they sometimes taste like soap.

  2. megwoo says:

    Oh man, I bet pandan chiffon cake is amazing. Do you have the recipe?? Thanks so much for introducing me to pandan. It’s my new favorite ingredient!

  3. cindy says:

    hey, i just had lemongrass ice cream last night for the first time. it was delish!

  4. megwoo says:

    Ohh, that sounds incredible! Did you make it or have it out? If you made it, could you share the recipe?

  5. Fatemeh says:

    We regularly make turbinado simple syrup at home (C is a “southern boy”, and therefore demands sweet tea in the summertime). It’s not as “pretty” as white sugar simple syrup, but it has a delicious flavor.

    I love the idea of playing with simple syrups; I might do this one weekend!

  6. megwoo says:

    Fatemeh, The turbinado simple syrup sounds great—I’ll have to try that out sometime. I’m amazed that more people don’t make simple syrups… they’re really easy and so delicious. My favorite one so far is the mint!

  7. kitchenmage says:

    I have tons of empty bottles, a bunch of mint and 25 poinds of sugar. I think they may have a purpose now.

  8. megwoo says:

    Oh yes! That’s just perfect!!

  9. Dina says:

    I have been playing with some simple syrups too…right now my favorite is vanilla…I split and scraped 1 vanilla bean into 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Boiled it till clear and let sit for a few hours, reheated it, strained it into a jar and voila! Vanilla Syrup. We used it on pancakes in lieu of maple syrup. :o)

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