Kaffir lime leaves – it might not be obvious but almost everyone has encountered them in their Asian gastronomic adventures. Anyone who has eaten Thai red or green curry; sipped on the spicy Tom Yum and Tom Kha soups and wondered what is it that makes these dishes so zesty and flavourful – It’s the kaffir lime leaves that lends these dishes that distinct flavour typical of the Southeast Asian cuisine.
Kaffir Lime is a type of lime native to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The term “Kaffir” comes from the German word “Kafer”, which means “bug”. This fruit is so named due to the fact that it slightly resembles an insect.
This fruit is so commonly used to impart flavour in Thai cooking that if a dish calls for the use of citrus leaves, it can be assumed that it means kaffir lime leaves. Kaffir leaves are the only citrus fruit leaves that are used on a regular basis in a large number of Thai dishes. The leaves exude an aromatic perfume and provide a striking and distinguishable flavour that is virtually impossible to substitute. They add an unmistakable, refreshing taste that is essential in many Thai soups & curries.
To experience the wonderful aroma, sliver the leaves with a knife or scissors and you’ll begin to understand just how wonderful this plant is. Just one or two of these aromatic leaves are enough to flavour a pot full of soup.
Reputed to be a digestive aid with many health benefits, the kaffir lime leaves help cleanse the blood while helping maintain healthy teeth and gums. In Thailand the leaves are added to shampoo as it’s said to prevent hair loss. It is also widely used as deodorant. The aroma of the leaves is rejuvenating and it’s believed to have a positive effect on the mind and the body. Add a few crushed leaves to your bath and you will feel your negative thoughts ease away.
Great in taste and abundant in various benefits, look out for it next time you are at the market.
Tip: Kaffir lime leaves freeze very well. Just place them in a Ziploc bag and they’ll retain their flavour for months. You don’t need to defrost them, just use as normal.
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