Gourmet Food Source
Cassia bark comes from an evergreen tree of the laurel family native to China and Burma, it can also be found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Also known as Cinnamon Cassia it is the cheaper (and poorer) relation of cinnamon.
Whereas cinnamon is formed into tight single rolled quills cassia is rolled from both sides towards the centre looking more like a loose scroll. The bark is darker and coarser than cinnamon with a rough outer surface. An Ayurvedic herb it is also used by the Chinese in their traditional medicines whilst in the West it is used to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol, prevent nausea and other gastro related symptoms.
In cooking it is best known for its use in Chinese five-spice powder and as an essential for Chinese red braised meat dishes and soups whilst the leaves are sometimes used as an aromatic herb. Cassia’s flavour is less subtle than cinnamon and should not be substituted in sweet preparations as the end result will be the worse for it. I have heard of cassia being ground and sold as cinnamon particularly in the US and care should be taken when buying either.
Content and picture © Miles Collins