Field of Science

Botanical quest - daun salam

What a botanical challenge for a Saturday in mid-January here in the center of North America. The recipe we must cook for this evening's meeting of our dinner club is opor ayam (braised chicken in coconut cream sauce). Nothing quite like a pleasantly spicy tropical feast for a winter dinner! But the recipe call for daun salam and even with my considerable knowledge and experience with Asian spices and cooking condiments, this is a new one because so far my travels have not included Indonesia, much to my regret. Daun salam is the Indonesian equivalent of our bay leaf (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae), but one cannot be substituted for the other as they are very different plants and very different flavors. So now where to find Eugenia (Syzygium) polyantha (Myrtaceae)? This will be quite a challenge and no viable substitute exists. In all truth our club members, even as semi-sophisticated lovers of cooking and good food, will probably be unable to tell whether or not the recipe contains daum salam or not because it is probably new to all of us. So off to the Asian grocery shoppes we go. And don't tell anyone, but some kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass may go missing from the university greenhouse!

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