Kaffir Lime Leaves are my new crush.
I saw them standing there by the refrigerated machine when I was cruising the produce department at Uwajimaya.
Kaffir (pronounced kay-fer) lime trees are native to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. They’re grown mainly for their hauntingly fragrant leaves which are essential in Thai cooking.
If you’ve sipped some Tom Yum or Tom Khaa soup you’ve sampled the citrusy magic of Kaffir lime leaves. Or at least I hope you’re sipping and souping at places that serve authentic lime leaf love because Kaffir lime leaves are divine…and really hard to define.
Kaffir lime leaves are intensely fragrant. Tear one and rub it on your hands or across your cutting board. Their scent is clean and sparkly but not in a light-handed way. It is lingering, lush, vividly citrusy.
The Kaffir lime fruit is small with bumpy skin and a somewhat bitter juice that’s used in cooking but not with the same frequency and enthusiasm as the leaves. The juice and rind are used in medicinal tonics for the blood and digestive system as well as in natural cleansers. Rubbing the leaves on your gums is supposed to be good for your mouth zone. And the juice is supposed to be wickedly good at getting out tough stains.
Kaffir lime leaves are pretty. I love the contrast of their shiny, dark green fronts and their bright, chartreuse backs; their almost heart-shaped leaves.
They impart a flavor that’s a mix of lemon, lime and mandarin yet it is disctinctive. Whole leaves, fresh or dried, are used to flavor simmering stews and broths in much the same way as Bay leaves are used. The leaf is removed after the simmering or pushed aside in a curry…not eaten.
When fresh leaves are young and tender they can be slivered finely and used in salads. The sturdy center rib should be removed first if you’re going to try them that way.
Kaffir lime leaves can be dried and stored just like other dried herbs. The fresh leaves keep well frozen.
Have I convinced you to track down fresh Kaffir lime leaves yet? Did I tell you I read that you can throw a few in your bathwater for a refreshing spa moment? Trying it!
Kaffir limes leaves are rumored to be good for warding off evil spirits and banishing gloomy moods. I like both those qualities.
This might turn into a Kaffir Lime Leaf Palooza.
In the meantime…if you pick up Kaffir Lime Leaves try throwing one in coconut water or stock and poaching fish in it which I did with cod. I also added a fresh Kaffir lime leaf to red beans while they simmered and those red beans rocked. Kaffir lime leaves will impart a mysterious, deeply citrus note into your concoctions. A few leaves simmering in water will cleanse the air and make your home smell spiffy. Plus…it’ll keep the gloomsters and ill-willed spirits away. Win win and what what!