Kaffir Lime Leaves

Kaffir lime leaves are the leaves from the Kaffir lime tree. They are an indispensable ingredient in Thai cuisine but also widely used across Southeast Asian cuisine as well as Indonesian cooking. The flavour of kaffir lime leaves is citrusy and aromatic, but much zestier and lighter in taste than its bay leaf or curry leaf counterparts.

Although they are a part of the citrus family, kaffir limes are not the same as other limes. Kaffir lime leaves are distinguished by their bumpy texture and their less bitter flavour. The kaffir lime trees also have double leaves, which means that two leaves grow out of the one stem. Kaffir lime leaves are dark green in colour and have a glossy, shiny texture.

What cuisines use kaffir lime leaves?

Kaffir lime leaves are a popular ingredient in Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisine. In Thai cuisine, kaffir lime leaves are used to flavour Thai curries, soups, salads, and stir-fry dishes. They are most recognised for imparting a citrusy flavour to Tom Yum soup. In Cambodian cuisine, kaffir lime leaves are used to create kroeung, numerous spice/herb pastes that are the foundation of Khmer dishes. Vietnamese cuisine uses kaffir lime leaves to add fragrance to chicken dishes and reduce pungency when cooking snails. In Indonesian cooking you will find kaffir lime leaves used in several dishes such as soto ayam. They are also often found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisine.

How to cook with kaffir lime leaves

Use kaffir lime leaves to add an extra dose of flavour in your coconut-based soups or curries, or when cooking fish and seafoods. An easy way to use kaffir lime leaves in the kitchen is to consider them like another type of bay leaf. Use them to infuse an aromatic flavour in soups, stir fries, stocks, and curries. To use them, first bruise or crush the fresh kaffir lime leaves in your hands to release the aroma. Dried leaves do not need to be crushed. You can also add kaffir lime leaves to your pickles, syrups, and salt cures to add extra flavour and aroma.

Kaffir lime leaves taste delicious when paired with ginger and lemongrass. In Thai cuisine they’re also often used alongside galangal, chilli, and shallots. The citrusy flavours of kaffir lime leaves go perfectly with fish and seafood dishes as well as simple greens. You can also use kaffir lime leaves when making desserts. Here they will pair beautifully with coconut, cardamom, and papaya flavours. Kaffir lime leaves can also be infused in sugar syrups for cordials or cocktails.

Can you substitute kaffir lime leaves with lime?

While some people believe you can swap out kaffir lime leaves in a recipe with regular lime, others disagree. The reason is that kaffir lime leaves have such a distinct, characteristic flavour that nothing can really come close to mimicking it. Kaffir lime leaves are different from regular lime leaves as they are less aromatic and have a lot more bitterness. If you do need to substitute kaffir lime leaves, the best option would be to use a combination of lime and lemon zest.

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