All About Cassia Bay Leaves
This herb contributes delicate notes of allspice, cinnamon, and dried orange peel to the dishes it stars in.
Indian bay leaves, also known as tej patta, are harvested from the Indian cassia tree (Cinnamomum tamala), an evergreen native to the region south of the Himalayas. When dried, the leaves share the pale olive-green hue of Turkish bay leaves, but they are significantly bigger, measuring as long as 4 to 6 inches. Indian bay leaves are also divided by three distinct veins, while Turkish bay leaves contain just one prominent vein.
The herb is usually added whole to dishes such as biryanis, braises, and kormas, where it contributes a delicate flavor that brings to mind allspice, cinnamon, and dried orange peel, as opposed to the more herbal notes of the Turkish leaves. Indian bay leaves can also be finely ground and included in spice mixes such as garam masala.
We also like them in a few nontraditional applications. Their citrusy flavor paired well with cardamom in crème anglaise (we steeped two bay leaves and six green cardamom pods in 2 cups of crème anglaise, removing them when we strained the custard before serving), and when sautéed with onions, they added depth to the vegetables’ sweetness in a way that would enhance almost any dish calling for softened onions.