A subtly flavored leaf of a member of the cassia family- used in the same way bay leaves are used in Western cooking- to add a complex earthy fragrance to dishes. If unavailable, omit them from the recipe altogether. Do not substitute bay leaves as the flavor is totally different.
Most of the ingredients called for in this site are readily found at Chinese or Asian grocery stores and well-stocked supermarkets.
The Asian Kitchen
You do not need to a range of exotic implement to cook Asian food. Perhaps thats is the most suprising aspect of Asian cooking that often sophisticated food is prepared with so few utensils! Most of the implement found in the average Westren kitchen can be adapted for use in Asian cooking, athought several items, such as a wok or rice cooker, will make the preparation of cooking of certain dishes mush easier. Far more time is usually spent on the preparation of the ingridients, whic have to be peeled, chopped, grated, ground, and blended before the cooking begins. You should be able to obtain most of the implements mentioned here from Asian grocery stores.