Have you ever been left confused trying to decide whether the herb in your hands is a bay leaf or a curry leaf? If you have, then we surely can't blame you since the two resemble each other in appearance. But the real question is, “is a bay leaf and curry leaf related in any way," and do they taste the same?
In this mini-guide, we will unravel all the secrets of how curry leaves and bay leaves differ in characteristics and use. So without further ado, let's get started:
What Are Curry Leaves?
Curry leaves are a fragrant herb commonly used in Indian and Pakistani dishes and cuisine. They are the leaves of a tree belonging to the Rutaceae family native to Asia. Speaking of appearance, curry leaves have a long, oval, slender shape and a small size. An average curry leaf is usually 1-2 cm in width and 2-4 cm in length.
When it comes to color, curry leaves are bright green while their underside is pale green. They happily grow along the stem, with each branch having around twenty leaves. They have a distinctive citrusy scent, and their pungent taste resembles that of lemongrass.
What Are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are the aromatic leaves of the evergreen shrub ‘bay laurel plant’ that grows in hotter climates. These are available in their fresh form, dried version, or powder form. Speaking of appearance, bay leaves are oval, long, and have a tapered, slender point. An average bay leaf is 3-5 cm wide and 7-10 cm long. They boast a floral and herbal aroma that resembles oregano and thyme.
Do Bay Leaves And Curry Leaves Have The Same Taste?
Since they look so much alike, do curry leaves and bay leaf taste the same as well?
Curry leaves boast a slightly citrusy and sweet fragrance that comes with light notes of pepper. On the other hand, Bay leaves have a mild woody, strong citrusy aroma with light bitter undertones. This is why caution needs to be taken when using bay leaves to prevent your dish from tasting bitter.
Let's look at one significant difference between bay leaves and curry leaves when it comes to herbs and spices:
- Bay leaves: Whenever bay leaves are used for making any dish, it is common practice to remove them before dishing the meal out. Even though they are edible, they have an intense bitter taste and may also pose a choking hazard.
- Curry leaves: When it comes to curry leaves, they have a subtle flavor profile, making them perfect candidates to be served in the dish. It is also possible to use dried curry leaves; however, you need to add a large amount to come at par with the taste of fresh curry leaves. Just like bay leaves, dried curry leaves are also a choking hazard and need to be removed when serving your dish.
Is It Possible To Swap Between Curry Leaves And Bay Leaves When Cooking?
This is a common question that many people ask themselves. Even though they have quite a few differences, they can be used in each other’s place when making Sri Lankan, Pakistani or Indian meals. Since they have similarities in their flavor, they work equally well in cuisines of the cultures mentioned above. It means bay leaves are the top curry leaves substitute if you are looking for one.
When it comes to Mediterranean cuisine, it is a different story altogether. Both of the herbs cannot provide the same desired flavors in the dishes. For example, dishes such as pasta sauces cannot incorporate curry leaves in place of bay leaves. So the two can only be swapped in Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Indian cuisines.
Difference Between The Two:
Now let’s take a deeper look into what separates the two herbs and spices apart:
1- How They Are Used When Cooking?
- Curry leaves: These are sold fresh and are usually attached to their branch. The most common practice is to add them when steaming, boiling, and sautéing. This makes them the perfect addition to soups, rice dishes, stews, and curries. Since they are edible, they can be left in the dish when serving.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves are mostly used in recipes in their dried form. Dried bay leaves have a more intense aroma as compared to fresh leaves. Since these are larger and stiffer compared to curry leaves, they need to be removed from the dish when serving.
- Curry leaves: These are the star ingredient in many dishes in Southeast Asia. They work exceptionally well with aromatic vegetables like onions, garlic, and ginger. Moreover, dried curry leaves are extensively used in Sri Lankan curry powders that are a top hit in the Caribbean.
Curry leaves are extensively used to make curries along with seafood and meat dishes. Chefs usually sauté them alongside whole spices to get the maximum flavor and aroma of these herbs.
- Bay leaves: Like curry leaves, the uses and popularity of bay leaves aren't far behind. Even though it is used in Indian and Pakistani curries, it is a hot favorite in European dishes, where it is added to sauces, stocks, and pickles.
Bay leaves are also widely added to marinades when making fish or meat dishes. When cooking crab or other seafood, bay leaves are added to the water when boiling them.
- Curry leaves: These are glossier and smaller in size.
- Bay leaves: These have a leathery texture and are larger in size.
4- How They Are Sold?
- Curry leaves: Curry leaves are mostly sold fresh while they are attached to their branch.
- Bay leaves: Bay leaves are mostly sold in their dried form. However, you can also buy fresh at vegetable shops.
Curry Leaves Vs Bay Leaves: Conclusion
Whether you are using bay leaves or adding curry leaves, rest assured your meal is going to be lip-smackingly good.
Both of these herbs boost their exclusive flavors and aroma, making them a star ingredient in various cuisines. Whether you are making an Indian curry or an Italian pasta sauce, both these cuisines will need their fair share of curry leaves and bay leaves.