WHAT IS IT?
Makrut (Mac-rit) lime leaves, more commonly branded as Kafir lime leaves in North America, (See Backstory, below, for our switch, and why you shouldn’t call them by that name either.) come from the citrus hystrix tree, and are the fragrant anthem of Thai, Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisines. The bold aroma of the leaves give lift to all kinds of dishes, from curries to roasted meats to a nice twist on green tea. It’s a citrus scent infusion and a gentle lime taste without the sharp acids of a lime.
The essence of the makrut lime leaf is unlike any other, an abundant sweet citrus bouquet that lingers on the nose with gentle fruit blossom notes. The bright tropical aroma emerges from the fresh or dried leaves when they’re allowed to steep in liquid. Fresh can also add aromatic depth to steamed foods.
Like bay leaves, makrut leaves are generally inedible and are removed before serving. They can, like bay leaves, be finely crushed, though, in some applications like a spice rub, with a spice grinder or mortar/pestle.
Makrut limes are a prized citrus plant, native to tropical Asia, where they are available year round, including Thailand, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Makrut limes and their leaves are the go-to of the Thai kitchen.
- Popular fragrant for basmati rice
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Add to a simple meat brine to add citrus notes to it. Pairs well when properly balanced with ginger and/or turmeric;
- Sub liquid from steeped leaves for water in a green tea cake for added citrus aroma
- A couple of leaves added to coconut broken rice add fragrant depth
- Part of a great simple Asian pork belly rub’s spice mix when finely ground.
We use the term “Makrut” rather than Kafir because, as Veronica Vinje will tell you, the term is a racial slur like the “N word” is in the United States. Kafir literally means “non-believer” or “infidel” in Arabic. It is a slur, coined centuries ago by Arab traders for black people across Africa. The term is highly offensive to many, and it’s even legally actionable to use the word in reference to someone in South Africa.
Exotic still in North America and Europe, they are the common citrus leaves of Asia, and need no added name. Makrut is so common that most rural households surely have a tree or trees as part of their culinary keep.
- Mauritius papeda
- Kafir Lime
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