The kaffir lime, also known as the makrut lime or Mauritius papeda, is a citrus fruit native to tropical Southeast Asia and southern China.
Its fruit and leaves are used in Southeast Asian cuisine and its essential oil is used in perfumery. Its rind and crushed leaves emit an intense citrus fragrance.
Kaffir lime leaves are not the same as leaves from a regular lime tree. Kaffir limes (Citrus hystrix) are different from regular limes in that they are very bitter with bumpy skin. In Thailand, the kaffir limes are not consumed but are used mainly in producing household cleaning products. The leaves are very aromatic and can be consumed if cooked or very thinly sliced. They are hourglass-shaped “double” leaves, meaning there are two leaves at the end of the stem.
Uses of Kaffir Lime
Kaffir Lime Leaves
The leaves are the most frequently used part of the plant, fresh, dried, or frozen.
- The leaves are widely used in Thai and Lao cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum) and Cambodian cuisine (for the base paste “krueng”).
- The leaves are used in Vietnamese cuisine to add fragrance to chicken dishes and to decrease the pungent odour when steaming snails.
- The leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine (especially Balinese cuisine and Javanese cuisine) for foods such as soto ayam and are used along with Indonesian bay leaf (salam leaf) for chicken and fish.
- They are also found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisines. It is used widely in South Indian cuisine.
Kaffir Lime Rind or Zest
- The rind (peel) is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavour.
- The zest of the fruit, referred to as combava, is used in Creole cuisine to impart flavour in infused rums and rougails in Mauritius, Réunion, and Madagascar.
- In Cambodia, the entire fruit is crystallized (candied) for eating.