also: Cinnamomum tamala, cinnamon leaves, cassia leaves, tejpatta/tejapatta, indian bay leaf, malabar leaf, bay leaf
shelf life: 12 months, possibly longer when kept dry and sealed in a cool, dark place
flavour profile: sweet spice reminiscent of cinnamon and clove, woodsy, tea, floral notes
pairs well with: chiles, citrus, coriander, cumin, garlic, grains, legumes, nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc), onion, pumpkin, root vegges, squash
Cuisines: chinese, indian, indonesian, latin american, malaysian, mediterranean, middle eastern, moroccan, north african, paki, tibetan, thai, turkish
special notes: adds more in terms of aroma than flavour, excellent flavour enhancer, melds flavours, softens rough edges
The dried leaves of the Cinnamomum tamala tree native to southeastern asia and india, closely related cinnamon and cassia (same genus) and distantly related to mediterranean bay laurel. Many sources use the name “bay” interchangeably to mean both turkish/mediterranean bay and tejpat, however, their aromas and flavours are wildly different. Tejpat has a distinctly spicy aroma, reminiscent of cinnamon and clove, a sweetness bordering on bubble gum, and a floral quality that reminds one of ylang, all underlined with a woodsy tea like quality. Tejpat add more to the aroma of a dish (which is heavenly) than flavour, which is not to say they aren’t vastly important to the characteristics of a dish, aroma hits us before flavour and alters our sense of taste. The light addition it makes to flavouring is more of a melding component, helping to bring together flavours and round out some of the harsher notes, lending a softness of taste. If you absolutely need to substitute, it is best to use turkish bay leaves and add a touch of cinnamon to a dish than to use bay alone, but you won’t get the same sweet spicy floral characteristics, the bay however, will perform a similar function as per the rounding out of flavours.
Don’t limit the use of tejpat to just indian dishes, it goes beautifully with any cuisine that uses warming spice and sweet notes, you’ll see me use it liberally with central and south american, african, mediterranean, middle eastern, and east asian dishes. It really adds a beautiful character that’s just hard to describe and its ability to soften and enhance flavours in dishes is just superb. You can find these in a lot of well-stocked grocers specialising in indian foods, particularly northern indian.
Tejpat leaves have three veins running the length of the leaf, as opposed to turkish bay having one, they are also larger, longer, and more slender, the difference is quite obvious in the picture above with the two side by side (tejpat left, turkish bay right.) They tend to also be more brittle and crumbly and less leathery than turkish bay, so use all of these (and your nose) as a guide when buying.
Or you can buy them online here