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QuestionDear Kurma,
I've purchased a few of your books, and in some recipes you call for a 'cassia leaf'. I've been to a lot of spice shops around Melbourne, and many people do not know what I'm talking about. Indonesian, Indian, Chinese and Sri Lankan spice shops tell me there is no such thing as cassia leaf, so I don't know what to do. Is there such a thing as cassia leaf?
Mario Valkanas, Melbourne, Australia.

AnswerDear Mario,
cassia leavesThere is indeed such a thing as cassia leaf! It's pictured here.
But you can't expect spice shop owners to know (wink wink, nudge nudge). It's botanical name is Cinnamomum cassia in Latin. In India it is know as tej patta. So it is actually the leaf of the cassia tree, which is similar to a cinnamon tree.

Cassia quills, made from the bark of the cassia tree, are darker, thicker, and more pungent than cinnamon quills (which come from the branches of the cinnamon tree), and are used for making most of the world's cinnamon powder. This is a big subject - there is a fair amount of confusion between cassia and cinnamon, and also mis-labelling for economic gain. Cassia is cheaper and stronger in fragrance than real cinnamon powder. But this is the subject of another letter.

So cassia leaf is sometimes mistakenly described or packaged as Indian bay beaves, but it is not really related to bay. The leaves do look quite a bit like slender bay leaves, thus the confusion.

Indian shops will have it - ask for tej patta. Otherwise regular bay leaves are close enough.

Best wishes,
Kurma

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