Ground makrut lime is that exotic, scented green goddess that transforms the aroma of anything that she touches, and adds a flash of color when she sprinkles her magic on food surfaces.
Makrut (Mac-rit) lime leaves, more commonly branded as Kaffir lime leaves in North America, and Germany. It’s a racial slur (See Backstory, below), so don’t use it.
They 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 ground leaves are best for dry rubs, sauces, and other applications where they offer more even distribution of the essential oils, that product the taste, into the dish.
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.
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. It 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.
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