WHAT IS IT?
Makrut (Mac-rit) lime leaves, more commonly branded as Kaffir lime leaves in North America, and Germany. We won’t use the term because it’s a racial slur (See Backstory, below).
They come from the citrus hystrix tree, and are the fragrant anthem of Thai, Indian, and other Southeast Asian cuisines, although they shouldn’t be limited to those flavor palettes. The powder can be used in many applications in other traditions, and hybrid cuisines.
The bold aroma of the ground leaves give lift to all kinds of dishes, from curries to roasted meats. 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 dried leaves, or powder/ground, when they’re allowed to steep in liquid. Fresh can also add aromatic depth to steamed foods.
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.
- Thai coconut curry;
- Green curry paste;
- Red curries;
- Beef Rendang.
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Magic Makrut rub on chicken, lamb, or pork;
- Green tea cake with a matcha-makrut dusting on top;
- Shrimp on a Parmigiano-Reggiano pasta with makrut, and basil, powders and chile oil;
- Chicken empanada with queso, Hatch green chile, cumin and ground makrut;
- Roasted sea bass with dill-makrut sauce.
We use the term “Makrut,” rather than Kaffir, because, as Veronica Vinje will tell you, the term “kaffir” is a racial slur, coined centuries ago by Arab traders for black people, across Africa. Kaffir literally means “non-believer” or “infidel” in Arabic. Like the “N word” in the United States, 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, a bit less so in Europe, they are the common citrus leaves of Asia. Makrut is so common there that most rural households often have a tree, or trees, as part of their culinary keep.
- Bai makrut
- Chanh sác
- Daun jeruk purut
- Daun limau purut
- Indische Zitronenblätter
- Indonesian lime leaves,
- Indonesische Zitronenblätter
- Limettier hérissé
- Mauritius papeda
- Thai lime
- Wild lime
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