From Curries To Biryanis: Different Ways To Use Bay Leaves

Strolling through an Indian kitchen, the warm, fragrant aroma of simmering spices is almost ubiquitous. Among the different spices, bay leaves, or tej patta, hold a special place. These aromatic leaves are often overlooked but play a crucial role in adding depth and complexity to many Indian dishes. Known for their subtle yet distinct flavour, bay leaves can elevate a simple dish into something extraordinary. Let’s explore five ways to incorporate bay leaves into your Indian cooking, enhancing both flavour and aroma. 

Flavourful Rice and Pulao

Bay leaves are a classic addition to rice dishes, imparting a subtle fragrance that pairs beautifully with various spices. 

How to Use 

Pulao: Add a couple of bay leaves to the hot oil along with whole spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom before adding the rice. The bay leaves infuse the rice with a delicate aroma. 

Biryani: In biryani, bay leaves are often added during the initial stages of cooking the rice, enhancing the layered flavours of this elaborate dish. 

Tips: Remove the bay leaves before serving to avoid an overpowering taste and an unpleasant texture. 

Rich Curries and Gravies 

Bay leaves can add a new dimension to curries and gravies, making them richer and more aromatic. 

How to Use 

Butter Chicken: When making the sauce, sauté bay leaves with onions, ginger, and garlic. They lend a subtle, herbal note that complements the richness of the dish. 

Dal Makhani: Bay leaves can be added while cooking lentils, infusing the dish with a gentle aroma that balances the hearty flavours. 

Tips: Bay leaves are best added at the beginning of the cooking process to allow their flavours to meld with the other ingredients. 

Aromatic Soups and Broths 

Bay leaves are a fantastic addition to soups and broths, offering a layer of flavour that enhances the overall taste. 

How to Use 

Vegetable Broth: Simmer vegetables with bay leaves, peppercorns, and other spices to create a fragrant broth that can be used in various soups and stews. 

Chicken Soup: Add bay leaves to your chicken soup base. They bring a warming, aromatic quality that makes the soup more comforting. 

Tips: Strain the broth to remove the bay leaves before using or serving to ensure a smooth texture. 

Tempering (Tadka)  

Adding bay leaves to the tempering process can elevate the flavour profile of lentils and pulses.   

How to Use 

Chana Dal: Heat oil or ghee and add bay leaves along with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and other spices. Pour this tempering over cooked chana dal for a flavour boost. 

Rajma: While cooking rajma, include bay leaves with the onions and tomatoes to infuse the dish with their distinct aroma. 

Tips: Use bay leaves sparingly in tempering to avoid overpowering the other spices. 

Infusing Oils and Butters 

Bay leaves can be used to infuse oils and butters, adding a nuanced flavour to your cooking. 

How to Use 

Bay Leaf Oil: Heat oil with bay leaves until the leaves turn crisp. Strain the oil and use it in salads, marinades, or as a finishing oil for dishes. 

Bay Leaf Butter: Melt butter and add bay leaves. Let it simmer on low heat to infuse, then strain. This butter can be used for basting meats or adding a unique touch to bread and vegetables. 

Tip: Infused oils and butter should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week for the best flavour.