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bay leaves

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the translation of tej patta into english as bay leaf may cause confusion for some cooks.

the bay leaf most americans/europeans are familiar with is the mediterranean Laurus nobilis. (i didn't find an indian language name for this herb; my understanding is that it isn't used much??) the bay leaf of india (hindi tej patta) is Cinnamomum tamala. the herbs are related and similar, but different enough (to me at least) to warrant drawing the distinction (in situations where this confusion might arise.)

camellia panjabi, for instance, calls for tej patta, and not the mediterranean laurel leaf, in her 50 great curries cookbook.

do you think it matters? do you use the mediterranean bay leaf in your indian cooking?

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There is a big difference in flavor between the two, but I feel it is ok to substitute the western kind in Indian cooking. They taste and smell different, but fill in the same flavor space in the dish. They do the same thing, just differently......know what I mean.

The tejpatta is the leaf of a variety of cassia, which is what we use as cinnamon. The quills come from cinnamomum cassia and the leaves from cinnamomum tamala. They smell of cinnamon and clove with a slight citrus quality.

It used to be very difficult to get these here in the US, but now it is easy. I definitely prefer them over the western variety.

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking


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Having lived in Delhi 20 years, I can assure you that dried leaves of Laurus Nobilis are indeed available there - try Modern Bazaar in Vasant Vihar. They look just like our European bay leaves, though larger, but aren't very aromatic at all.

Laurus was probably planted by the British in the hills (like rosemary), where it grows wild now, and it's much used by the large resident English-Indian community.

I would just leave them out of a North Indian recipe.

In Goa, where many varieties of Cinnamon are grown, all these leaves have a more or less strong cinnamon smell - not the same thing at all.

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i find bay leaves add a mild clove note and tej patta a cinnamon one.i do use bay leaves in indian cooking -usually in rice and i find a more savoury result than with tej patta.

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adding tej patta leaves to "rationing" rice used to be an old cook's trick in India, to try and make cheap rice taste (almost) like Basmati rice. Especially during the early years of Mrs. Gandhi's reign, when flour, sugar and rice were in such scarcity in India.

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adding tej patta leaves to "rationing" rice used to be an old cook's trick in India, to try and make cheap rice taste (almost) like Basmati rice. Especially during the early years of Mrs. Gandhi's reign, when flour, sugar and rice were in such scarcity in India.

works nicely for bumping up indifferent and not so cheap batches of basmati too!

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