Kaffir Lime Leaves

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Bai Magrood   ใบมะกรูด

Kaffir lime leaves are thick, dark green and shiny on the top, porous and pale on the back. A leaf has two connecting leaves which I call ‘double leaves’. Tear a leaf to smell the distinct aroma. Fresh kaffir lime leaves keep well in a refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. Dried leaves are also available at markets. Many Asian markets now have fresh leaves.

If the recipe calls for kaffir lime leaves and you can’t find any, skip the leaves. Don't substitute. The fragrance is so distinct that it is irreplaceable.

How to Use Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves are too tough to just eat, so they're either kept large and reserved, or sliced thin. Many Thai recipes call for the kaffir lime leaves. If the leaf is used whole, like in curry or in soup, most people do not eat the leaf itself. To prepare, tear the leaf by holding on to the joint between the two leaves and tear the leaf away. When you eat, you just avoid eating the leaf and move it to the side of your plate or bowl.

The only time the leaf is eaten is when it is sliced very thin for recipes like Tod Mun and Panang.  To slice or thread the kaffir leaves, roll up the leaves and slice thinly with a very sharp knife.  Check out the 2 pictures on the the right, one was taken in 2000 and another in 2012. See how I've improved my slicing skill?  It took practice and a better knife.

How to Grow a Kaffir Lime Tree

I have grown a few Kaffir lime trees, either picking them up at the home improvement stores or growing them from seeds.  They seem happy in a large pot, like a half wine barrel.  In such a pot, they grow to about 3 feet tall.  Even with a single 3 foot tall tree, we get more leaves than we can use.

When we lived in a cold climate, we’d bring it inside the house during the winter, then back out in the summer.  Now in a warmer climate, my kaffir lime trees stay outside all year round.

Like other citrus, the fruits are ready in fall and winter. I have made homemade curry pastes with the zest. The aroma of the zest freshens up the house every time I make curry pastes.

Recipes made with kaffir lime leaves

  • beef panang

    Beef Panang

    Panang Nua

    A dry beef curry, sprinkled with kaffir lime leaves

  • chicken curry

    Chicken Curry

    Gang Gai

    Chicken and Thai eggplant in red curry

  • tom kha gai

    Tom Kha Gai

    Gai Tom Kha

    Chicken in galangal flavored coconut broth. Sour and hot.

  • chinese water spinach curry

    Chinese Water Spinach Curry

    Gang Tay Po

    Chinese water spinach stewed in curry sauce with pork

  • mushroom tom yum
    Vegetarian

    Mushroom Tom Yum

    Tom Yum Hed

    Spicy and sour oyster mushroom soup with lemon grass broth

  • spicy budoo

    Spicy Budoo

    Nam Budoo Song Kreung

    Traditional southern Thai sauce served with rice and many veggies.

  • steamed curried fish

    Steamed Curried Fish

    Haw Moak

    Steamed, marinated fish in curry paste and coconut milk on vegetables.

  • tod mun

    Tod Mun

    Fried fish cake, spiced with Thai curry and kaffir lime leaves.

  • tom yum goong

    Tom Yum Goong

    Shrimp in clear spicy soup made from lemon grass, kaffir lime, hot pepper, lime juice and fish sauce

  • tom yum gai

    Tom Yum Gai

    Hot and sour, lean chicken soup with lemongrass and galangal.

  • pumpkin curry

    Pumpkin Curry

    Gang Ped Fug Tong

    Creamy and mild pumpkin curry.

  • vegetarian pumpkin curry

    Vegetarian Pumpkin Curry

    Gang Ped Fug Tong Mungsavirat

    Vegetarian creamy, mild pumpkin curry

  • fried chicken wings

    Fried Chicken Wings

    Peek Gai Tod Gluea

    Fried chicken wings with crispy skin, seasoned with lightly with Thai herbs

  • kua gling moo

    Kua Gling Moo

    Fiery hot dry pork curry spiced with southern flavors

  • roast duck curry

    Roast Duck Curry

    Gang Ped Pbed Yaang

    Roast duck curry in red curry sauce with cherry tomatoes.

  • tom yum pork ribs

    Tom Yum Pork Ribs

    Tom Yum Gradoog Moo

    Sour and spicy pork rib soup loaded with lemongrass, galangal, shallots and kaffir lime leaves

  • vegetarian tom yum hed

    Vegetarian Tom Yum Hed

    Tom Yum Hed

    Spicy and sour vegetarian mushroom soup cooked with Thai herbs

  • sour bamboo curry

    Sour Bamboo Curry

    Gang Gai Naw Mai Dong

    Sour pickled bamboo shoot cooked in red curry paste and coconut milk

Kaffir Lime

Magrood   มะกรูด

Kaffir lime is used extensively in Thai cooking. Both the zest and leaves are very useful. The fruit looks like a wrinkled lime, big wrinkles. Thai people believe the juice is excellent hair rinse to prevent hair from falling out. The zest of the lime is a key ingredient in red and green curry pastes.

The juice is used in a few Thai dishes, but the zest is more common.

Recently, Thai growers have developed and started growing a kaffir lime without wrinkles that is easier to pack and ship around the world.

Recipes made with Kaffir Lime

  • green curry paste

    Green Curry Paste

    Prig Gang Kiew Wan

    Spicy green curry paste made with fresh Thai green chili peppers.

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