Feeling blue in the kitchen?

8 October, 2020

All about butterfly pea powder

There’s not many foods that are actually a vivid, bright blue. Fruits like blueberries are a deep navy, veering towards purple, really. And as for those bright blue sweets? All artificially coloured.
But butterfly pea powder is an all-natural option for creating truly blue food and drinks. Also known as clitoria termatea, Asian pigeonwings and blue pea, this flower produces a stunning cobalt blue colour. It’s also rich in antioxidants, so as well as looking pretty, it gives your health a boost too.

So just where does the butterfly pea come from?

Butterfly pea flowers come from a vine that’s native to Southeast Asia. The flowers have been used in food and medicine for centuries, but it’s only in the past few years that they’ve become more popular in Australia. It’s particularly popular for Nyonya cuisine, the amalgamation of Chinese, Malay and Indonesian cuisines.

As well as making food and drinks a vivid bright blue, butterfly pea powder reacts with acid to change colour. If you add lemon or lime, it will change to a purple or even pink colour. This is the secret behind north coast craft distillery, Husk Farm and its award-winning Ink Gin. Butterfly pea flowers are steeped in the still for 24 hours, giving the gin its distinctive blue colour, which changes to blush pink when tonic water, lime or lemon is added. Science in action! We love it. You can grab a bottle at BWS on your way through Chatswood Interchange.

Ways to use butterfly pea powder

There’s a range of ways to use butterfly pea powder. Some of the most traditional options are:

  • Tea: If you can get hold of the fresh flowers, all you need to do is infuse the flowers in a cup of boiled water and let the colour steep. Of course, in Australia, finding the flowers might not be so easy, so buying the dried flowers ground into a powdered form is a more accessible option, with a few vendors online.
  • Dumplings: Intense blue dumplings are undeniably special. If you’re feeling like getting adventurous in the kitchen and wanting to make your own blue dumpling dough, why not check out this recipe from Darwin chef, Jimmy Shu from Hanuman Restaurant.
  • Colouring rice: Add the powder to your rice for a colourful side or to give your sushi rolls a pop of bright blue.
  • Sago and bubble tea: Creating blue pearls for your bubble tea is another option, by mixing blue pea powder with tapioca flour.

More modern uses include the previously mentioned Ink Gin, and it’s also a popular inclusion in latte drinks, sometimes called Mermaid Lattes, blending butterfly pea powder with things like blue spirulina and chai spices. You can also add the powder to smoothies, desserts and baked goods for a bold blue colour without using artificial food colouring.