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Indonesian Bay-Leaf (Eugenia polyantha Wight.)


botanicalSyzygium polyanthum (Wight) Waplers
BelarusianІнданезійскі лаўровы ліст
Indanezijski laurovy list
多花番樱桃 [duō huā bō yīng táo]
Duo hua bo(?) ying tao
DanishIndonesisk Laurbærblad
DutchIndonesisch laurierblad, Daon salam, Daoen salam, Salamblad
EsperantoIndonezia eŭgenio
GermanIndonesisches Lorbeerblatt
HungarianIndonéz babér
IndonesianSalam, Daun salam, Manting
Japaneseサラムリーフ, マメアデク
Saramu-rifu, Mameadeku
KhmerPring sratoab
MalayKelat samak, Samak, Serah, Daun salam
RussianИндонезийский лавровый лист
Indonezijski lavrovyj list
Thaiดอกแม้ว, มัก, แดงกล้วย, แพ, หว้าขี้มด, หว้าทุ่ง, สมัก, ซามุ
Dokmaeo, Mak, Daeng klua, Phae, Wakhimot, Wathung, Samak, Samu
VietnameseSắn thuyền, Trâm
San thuyen, Tram
Eugenia polyantha/Syzygium polyanthum: Dried salam leaves
Dried Indonesian bay leaves

In some books, daun salam is called Indian bay-leaf. This name stems from the time when Indonesia was generally known as East India and is mis­leading, because daun salam is known only in Indonesian and Malay cooking, and it is totally different from the Indian bay-leaf that is frequently mentioned in books on Northern Indian cuisine.

Used plant part

Leaves. The small leaves turn brown on drying. Since they are rarely traded in Europe, Indonesian cook books suggest substitution by ordinary bay leaves, although there is not much similarity between the two spices.

Plant family

Myrtaceae (myrtle family).

Sensory quality

Aromatic and slightly sour/astringent, but quite weak. According to Indonesian cookbooks, the leaves should develop more flavour after short frying; however, I cannot confirm the procedure to increase the flavour significantly.

Eugenia polyantha/Syzygium polyanthum: Fresh salam leaf
Fresh Indonesian bay leaf
Eugenia polyantha/Syzygium polyanthum: Salam branch
Branch with fresh Indonesian Bay-leaves
Main constit­uents

It is actually difficult to get infor­mation of the con­stituents of this spice. From Indo­nesian sources, whose meaning I am barely able to guess, I take that the leaves contain flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids.

The leaves contain only tiny amounts of an essential oil (0.2%). As main components, eugenol, methylchavicol and citral have been identified. The yield of essential oil was best when the leaves have been withered and dried for a few days.


The tree grows wild in the Western part of the South East Asian peninsular (Burma to Malaysia) and in Western Indonesia. To my knowledge, its culinary use is restricted to Malaysia and Indonesia.


The genus Eugenia was named so in honour of Prince Eugene of Savoy; the species name polyantha many flowered is derived from Greek polys [πολύς] many and anthos [ἄνθος] flower. The Indonesian folk name daun salam literally means peace leaf, but I cannot explain this name further.

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Eugenia polyantha/Syzygium polyanthum: Indonesian bay tree
Indonesian bay tree

Indonesian bay leaf is a rather exotic spice and not easily available in the West (only in countries with a high proportion of Indonesians). The leaves may be used fresh or dried; they are common in the cuisines of Sumatra, Jawa and even more Bali. They are applied to meat and, to a lesser extent, vegetables; in order to release their flavour, they must be fried or cooked for a while.

A wealth of different ingredients, cooking methods and flavourings is found in the various cooking traditions of Indonesia. All over the country, the use of lemon grass, greater galanga, fresh ginger, garlic and chiles is common; yet regionally, spice usage may expand this list considerably.

The cuisine of Bali is distinguished from cooking in other parts of Indonesia by a multitude of spices and flavourings not or comparatively rarely found on the other islands. A characteristic feature of Balinese cooking is the preference of fresh rhizomes ground to a paste (jangkap); besides ginger and greater galangale mentioned above, Balinese cooks make heavy use of lesser galangale and fresh turmeric. Furthermore, lemon grass, kaffir lime, pandanus leaves and the Indonesian bay-leaf are used in higher quantities than, for instance, on Jawa; the Balinese long pepper even seems to be unknown in the rest of Indonesia. Another flavouring much liked by the Balinese (and the Jawanese) is trassi (also spelled terasi), a pungent and strong-smelling paste of fermented shrimps; in Bali, it is even employed for fruit salad (rujak, see mango).

The remarkable variety of the food traditions in Indonesia has, in part, religious roots: Contrasting the Muslim majority of Indonesia, the Balinese are Hindus, and, therefore, Islâmic food restrictions do not apply to them. Babi guling (roast suckling pig) is a kind of national dish in Bali; it seems reasonable to develop a more spicy cuisine when dealing with pork frequently. For another typical Balinese recipe, see lesser galanga. For examples of cooking in other regions of Indonesia, see lemon grass (general), greater galangale (Sumatra), tamarind (Jawa) and coconut (Sulawesi).

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