Tonka beans are the most versatile ingredient and are harvested from a flowering tree native to South America and dried. The fragrance of the tonka bean, once also used in the manufacture of perfume, is reminiscent of vanilla, almonds, cinnamon and cloves, with hints of caramel and even tobacco. While the flavour is outstanding on its own, it adds a unique dimension when paired with chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon.
Wrinkled and black in appearance, the inside of the hard bean is a dusty chocolate brown that can be applied to dishes in the same way as nutmeg; easily grated as needed.
While the tonka bean has savoury applications (such as in certain regional French stews), its more popular applications are sweet: tonka bean ice cream, tonka bean panna cotta, tonka bean crème brulee, chocolate desserts, truffles and many other dishes.