Tonka Bean: The “Forbidden” Seed

In the fascinating world of spices, tonka bean emerges as an aromatic treasure. Its mysterious origin and captivating flavor make it a coveted ingredient in both gastronomy and perfumery. However, behind its delightful aroma and culinary versatility, there is a secret that has led to the prohibition of this spice in several countries.

What is tonka bean?

Tonka bean is obtained from the seeds of the Dipteryx odorata, a flowering tree known as the cumaru. Native to Central America and northern South America, this tree belongs to the Fabaceae family. Its seeds, black in color and wrinkled in texture, enclose a treasure of subtle taste and intoxicating aroma.

Today, countries like Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia are the main producers of tonka bean. Its uses extend beyond the kitchen, finding applications in the perfume and tobacco industries. Its fragrance, reminiscent of vanilla, honey, and almonds, makes it a prized spice in international cuisine.

How is tonka bean used in cooking?

Tonka bean unfolds in the kitchen as an invaluable resource, especially in pastry. From aromatic cookies to dreamy ice creams and silky creams, this spice elevates desserts to another level. Fine cuisine, such as French cuisine, has also incorporated tonka bean into remarkable creations, including the famous macarons.

Its versatility is not limited to sweet dishes. Tonka bean also finds its place in savory dishes like stews and terrines, adding an intriguing layer of flavor. Even in mixology, its presence is valued by mixologists.

Why is tonka bean prohibited?

Tonka bean reveals its charm and mystery through coumarin, a compound responsible for its distinctive aroma. However, coumarin is also known for its anticoagulant properties and can cause liver damage, bleeding, and heart interference in high doses.

Due to these risks, tonka bean is regulated and sometimes banned in several countries, including the United States. Nevertheless, for coumarin to unleash its toxicity, the consumption of at least 30 whole beans would be required. In more moderate quantities, its use is considered safe and does not pose a threat to health.
However, you don’t need to venture into the unknown to discover the delights of tonka bean. In the 11th White Truffle Festival, which will take place at Harry’s Prime Steakhouse & Raw Bar from November 1st to December 31st, you can experience the magic of this spice in our special dish: Tonka Bean Pumpkin Cream. We invite you on a culinary journey that incorporates the unmistakable fragrance of tonka bean into this sumptuous pumpkin cream, in a combination that will delight your senses with the majestic touches of white truffle. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore this culinary gem safely and deliciously!

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