Indian Bay Leaves: At a Glance
Tej Patta, or Indian bay leaves, means pungent leaf or Malabar leaf. The leaf’s Latin name is Cinnamomum tamala, and it is part of the Lauraceae family.
The Indian bay leaf is found on the Cassia plant. Although it is often confused with the commonly used European Laurel bay leaf, it is actually quite different in both flavor and appearance. The leaf is an olive green color with three veins traveling down its length. Making it even more unique is its cinnamon, clove-like flavor.
Cooking with Indian Bay Leaves
Indian bay leaves are a common spice used in North Indian cooking. They are a staple ingredient in Moghul or Mughlai dishes as well as in the cuisine of the Terai area. They are used most frequently to flavor curries, rice, soups, stews, and meats. They are primarily used in the following forms:
- Whole: Whole Indian bay leaves can be used in just about any dish to immerse its flavor. These whole leaves are often used in the famous Moghul cuisine, biryani. Biryani is a standard Indian mixed rice dish that boasts of Indian flavors and cooking styles. Although using the Indian Bay leaf whole does not provide as much flavor as other alternatives, it does make it easier to remove the leaves prior to serving.
- Ground or Crushed: Cooking with ground or crushed bay leaves is the best way to take advantage of the spice’s unique fragrance and flavor; however, it makes removing the spice, when necessary, more difficult. A great way to enhance the flavor while avoiding the hassle of removal is to place the ground or crushed leaves in a muslin bag or tea infuser. Some spice mixes, such as kashmiri garam masala, call for ground or crushed bay leaves that do not need to be removed. This spice mix is then used to make other Moghul cuisines such as Kashmiri stew. The leaves can be easily ground in an automatic grinder or crushed using a mortar and pestle.
Indian Bay Leaves: History and Origination
The Indian bay leaf originated on the Southern slopes of the Himalayas and the mountains of North Eastern India. In ancient times, this leaf was used for its medicinal qualities. It also played a large role in the medieval times as a medicinal plant. The early Indians used many plants, including the Indian bay leaf, for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties.
Cultivation of Indian Bay Leaves
Indian bay leaves grow wild in Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, and the mountains of North Eastern India; however, cultivation of this plant is mostly done in Arabia, America, and Europe. The tree that the leaves are found on can grow up to 70 feet tall and thrives best in a warm, moist climate similar to the Mediterranean area. It also needs a lot of sunlight. The tree can be cultivated both outdoors and indoors; however, when outside, the soil should not drop below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. When grown indoors, the temperature must be strictly controlled because abrupt changes could kill the tree.
The Indian bay leaf can be propagated using four to five inches of the leaf’s stem. The best time of the year to propagate the plant is at the end of the summer season. It is important that the stem cuttings be cared for properly and kept in a humid environment.
Harvesting can begin after about two years. After hand-picking the leaves, they should be dried prior to use because the flavor of a fresh Indian bay leaf is quite bitter. The drying time should take between five and six days. It is also best to pick the biggest leaves because of the older the leaf, the bolder the flavor. Once the leaves are ready to be stored, they should be kept in an airtight container away from light and heat. When stored properly, they will last for over two years.
About Our Indian Bay Leaves
Here at Burma Spice, we want to make sure you’re satisfied by giving you exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to appearance, size, and most importantly, flavor. Our Indian bay leaves, or Tej Patta, are grown in Nepal. This means that they are cultivated in their original, ideal environment where their trees can thrive and grow to provide the best flavored Indian bay leaves available.
We offer various packaging to ensure that you can find the size and style that’s right for you. If you like to use your spices as decor, the one-ounce glass bottle is the choice for you. If your kitchen has limited space, choose between the three or five-ounce resealable rice paper bags. If you own a restaurant or work in a professional kitchen, then the 20 or 40-ounce jars will be your best option.