Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix)
Kaffir lime leaves and to a lesser extent, fruit rind, is an essential ingredient in Thai, Indonesian, Indian and Malaysian cuisines.
Kaffir lime leaves have a lingering yet delicate citrus flavour. The rind of the fruit is slightly bitter. Both leaves and rind quickly lose their flavour when dried, so it’s best to use fresh if available.
Kaffir lime leaves have a fresh, aromatic, explosive fragrance which is floral and citrus-like.
Kaffir lime leaves are used in many Thai, Indonesia and Malaysian curries, soups, salads and stir fries. The rind is also used in curry pastes and fish cakes. You can remove whole leaves from the dish before serving (similar to how you would use bay leaves) or shred finely if using as a garnish. Kaffir lime loves fish, seafood, mushrooms, noodles, pork, chicken, rice, coconut milk and vegetables. It marries well with Thai basil, chilli, coriander, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and star anise.
Kaffir lime trees are propagated from seed or grafting. The trees are native to Southeast Asia however are now grown in Florida, California and Australia. Kaffir lime frees grow to 4-5 metres and are shrubby with dark green, glossy leaves. The fruit come from fragrant, white flavours and have bumpy, wort-like green skin. The trees perform best when planted in a warm position, in well-drained soil and watered regularly. Feed trees with liquid seaweed.
Kaffir lime is native to Southeast Asia. Its name might originate in colonial usage and some cooks prefer to it by its Thai name, makrut lime. In Malaysia, limau purut is its common name which is possibly named as the rough fruit looks like the rough knobs over crocodile’s eyes.
Kaffir lime tea, similar to lemon tea, can help with relief from coughs, colds, sinus and chest congestion. Kaffir lime tea can also help aid digestion. The juice is used in Thai ointments and shampoos and Malaysian tonics.
Facts about Kaffir Lime
Kaffir lime seeds (from inside the fruit) are high in pectin and can help setting jams. Crush the seed or tie in a muslin bag and add to jam during the cooking process.
Kaffir lime fruit is not often used and not the purpose for growing the plant as there is very little juice inside. However it can be used for its rind.