Kitchen & Pantry

Kaffir lime leaves

Some claim that kaffir lime is a variety of lime native to Indonesia and Malaysia. There are others that say kaffir lime is not a true lime but a subspecies of the citrus family. The fruit is green with a bumpy skin; the leaf has two sections. Both fruit and leaf are used extensively in Southeast Asian cooking. Kaffir lime leaves are found in Thai (tom kha gai), Malay (beef rendang), Lao (Lap Kai Pa), Burmese, Cambodian (Samlaa Kaeng Phet) and Indonesian cuisines.

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The aroma and flavor of the leaves are unique and most cooks swear that there simply are no substitutes for kaffir lime leaves. When buying kaffir lime leaves, note that it is known by other names.

  • Burma: shauk-nu, shauk-waing
  • Cambodia: krauch soeuch
  • China: ning meng ye (Mandarin), fatt-fung-kam (Cantonese), Thài-kok-kam (Hokkien/Min Nan)
  • Indonesia: jeruk purut, jeruk limo, jeruk sambal
  • Laos: makgeehoot
  • Malaysia: limau purut
  • Philippines: Kubot
  • Reunion Island: combava
  • Sri Lanka: kahpiri dehi, odu dehi, kudala-dehi
  • Thailand: makrud, som makrud

Whole kaffir lime leaves are sold fresh or dried. Fresh kaffir lime leaves may be frozen and will keep for several days. Dried kaffir lime leaves will keep longer but are not suitable for all types of dishes.

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I used to have a small kaffir lime growing in the garden. When we moved houses (the two photos above were taken in the old house), it was replanted, apparently did not take well to its new environment and died. We bought another and it died too. Until I figure out how best to raise a kaffir lime tree, I’ll have to content myself with dried ones.

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Bout this jar of dried kaffir lime leaves at Robinson’s Supermarket, Marcos Highway branch. Should last for a couple of weeks, at least, since kaffir lime leaves are used sparingly.

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