Kaffir lime is grown primarily for its leaves, but its fruit can be used too! (Be warned, they are very, very sour.) In fact, if you want to cook with the kaffir lime fruit, it’s worth growing the plant at home, as the fruits are not readily available in the supermarkets. They don’t have much juice, but their rind is a nice addition to curries and such. (The kaffir/makrut lime leaf recipes here all use only the makrut lime leaf and not the fruit.) The leaves are used in some of our favourite Thai dishes such as Tom Yum Soup , Tod Mun (fish cake) and Tom Kha Gai as well as in Indonesian and Cambodian food. (I have not included recipes to these 2 dishes, however, as they’re such classics that you probably already have a good recipe on hand!)
Kaffir lime vs makrut lime
Growing up in Singapore, we’ve always called this plant Kaffir Lime or Limau Purut. It wasn’t till this year that I realised the word “kaffir” is offensive in some countries, and so they use the name makrut lime instead. Apologies to anyone who is offended by the word “kaffir” but if I leave it out of this post, very few people in South East Asia will know which plant I am referring to!
How to grow kaffir lime leaf?
The plant can grow to a few metres tall but adapts well to the potted life, if the pot is of adequate size. In addition, Kaffir Lime requires:
- lots of sunlight
- moist but well-draining soil
If you don’t live in the tropics, keep the plant indoors when it’s cold out, near a sunny window and mist regularly as the plant likes humidity (but not wet feet as the roots will rot!)
Pluck the leaves every few weeks to encourage growth. You can also propogate a new Kaffir Lime leaf plant by poking a stem cutting in soil- the stem should be at least 4 inches long, with all the leaves removed except for the top ones.
How to preserve kaffir/ makrut lime leaves?
Kaffir Lime leaves can be used fresh, frozen or dried. It’s best to use the young leaves as they are more tender, so if you have a glut of leaves, pluck them and plonk them in your freezer for future use.
How to cook with kaffir lime leaf?
You can use them like bay leaves, to infuse flavour into your cooking- just bruise it beforehand to release its natural oils. (Remove before serving as they’re tough.) Alternatively, they can be shredded thinly and then added to your food: roll the leaf up and use a sharp knife to cut very thinly, as shown in the photo above. In this case, you no longer need to remove the leaves before eating.
As you can probably tell from the cuisines that use Kaffir Lime leaf, it goes very well with:
One-pot turmeric, kaffir leaf and chicken baked rice
Cambodian chicken curry
Snake bean, coconut and makrut lime leaf salad
Thai inspired prawn salad
Kaffir lime leaf in desserts and drinks
A very interesting recipe is this kaffir lime leaf syrup. The recipe says it’s for cocktails but I’m sure it would work well in desserts too. Stay tuned to see what I end up making with it!
Have you tried any desserts with kaffir lime leaf in them?