Thursday, 2 October 2008

three recipes w kaffir lime

Wowee peoples, I have no less than three recipes for you this Weekend Herb Blogging.

Last week I focused on the native Australian finger lime (the long limes pictured above with the key lime and a [frozen] kaffir lime). This week it’s all about the kaffir lime tree and some of the recent Indonesian food I’ve been cooking.

A while ago, I blogged about a Balinese-style feast that I made and these are some of the recipes.
First up is a simple kaffir syrup. It’s light, refreshing and perfect with chilled soda water and ice. It would make a great addition to cocktails and is perfect drizzled over fresh mango cheeks and other tropical fruits as well.

Kaffir Lime Syrup

Anna’s recipe. Makes 1 cup.

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1 kaffir lime

1. Combine all ingredients together and heat on the stove until the liquid starts to bubble.
2. Simmer for 3 minutes until syrup thickens then remove from heat and pour into a jar.
3. Heat will seal the jar, which can be kept in the cupboard until needed. Keep in the fridge after opening.

The next dish is a beautiful and incredibly rich rice, coloured by turmeric and flavoured with bay leaves, fresh ginger and kaffir. The rice is cooked using coconut milk instead of water and is simply delicious.

Nasi Kuning (fragrant turmeric rice)

Anna’s recipe. Serves 4.
400ml coconut milk
1 cup long grain rice
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 kaffir leaves
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Pinch of salt
Fried shallots, for garnish
1. Combine turmeric powder, salt, bay leaves, kaffir leaves, fresh ginger and coconut milk.
2. Add rice then bring mixture to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and cook, covered, for around 12 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, keeping cover on, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
5. Check that rice is soft and all liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves and kaffir leaves.
6. Pack rice into a greased bowl and turn out onto a serving platter. Serve hot, garnished with fried shallots.

I first tried this recipe at the Casa Luna Cooking School in Bali. It is so flavoursome and the kaffir lime really shines against the other ingredients. In her cookbook, Janet de Neefe describes this dish as a fusion of Balinese and Mediterranean flavours and that’s accurate. Be sure to check out the link to Janet’s cookbook as she has so many other recipes included and descriptions on each.

Sambal Tuwung (roasted eggplant salad)

Recipe from Fragrant Rice by Janet de Neefe. Serves 4.

2 small black eggplants
2 long red chillies
3 small red chillies
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
2 medium tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small kaffir limes
1-2 teaspoons kecap manis
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar
Oil, for baking and frying
Lime wedges, for garnish
Fried shallots, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C.
2. Slice the eggplant in half, lengthwise.
3. Combine eggplant and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with oil and roast until soft (about 30 minutes). Set aside to cool.
4. Halve the tomatoes and chop the chilli into small pieces.
5. Heat oil in a wok and fry chillies, garlic and shrimp paste until lightly brown.
6. Add the tomatoes and fry until they are softened. Strain and set aside.
7. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the chilli, tomatoes, garlic and palm sugar gently into a coarse pulp. Add some oil if it’s too dry.
8. Skin the eggplant and, using your hands, pull the soft flesh into strips.
9. Using your hands again, mix the eggplant with the pulp, kecap manis, kaffir leaves and crushed limes.
10. Serve garnished with lime wedges and fried shallots.

Kaffir limes (Citrus hystrix) are native to Malaysia and Indonesia but are known grown worldwide and are a popular backyard plant. In fact Jonas and I have one in a large pot on our balcony and it seems to be doing very well.

The fruits are around the same size as Tahitian or Key limes, but their skin is a little darker and has bumps and grooves all over it. The fruit contains a lot of seeds and the juice is extremely sour, seeming unpalatable from older fruit.

The kaffir tree has beautiful, elegant branches with long, sharp thorns. Leaves have hourglass shapes that seem like two leaves stuck together end-to-end. The leaves are edible and are used, dried or fresh, to flavour many dishes. They can even be kept in the freezer to maintain freshness.

Kaffir leaves and zest are used to flavour curry paste, tom yum soup, barbecued fish, roasted chicken, prawn salads, herbal vinegars and tea.

Unfortunately the word kaffir has taken on some terrible connotations in South Africa, where the word was used as a derogatory name for black Africans the way nigger was applied to African Americans in the US. The lime is pronounced quite differently than the insult, but the spelling is the same.

The origin of this racism, however, came from the Portuguese misunderstanding of Arabic and using the word kafur meaning “non believer” as a word for African tribesmen. Basically, it’s got nothing to do with the poor lime!!!

In South East Asia, where they are commonly included in cooking, the kaffir has many names:
Cambodia: krauch soeuch
China: fatt-fung-kam (Cantonese), thai-ko-kam (Hokkien/Minnan)
Malaysia: limau purut
Myanmar: shauk-nu, shauk-waing
Indonesia: jeruk purut, jeruk limo, jeruk sambal
Philippines: swangi
Sri Lanka: kahpiri dehi, odu dehi, kudala-dehi
Thailand: makrud, som makrud
Laos: makgeehoot

So this is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by UK-based-Brazilian Valentina from Trem Bom. Be sure to check out the other herby entries from around the world.



  1. Wow Anna, you have outdone yourself on this one! What a great collection of recipes. I love kaffir lime, which I've mostly had in Thai food. My step-sister has a tree in California. She sends me the leaves and I keep them in the freezer.

    Sad to say I've never had any Indonesian food of any type.

  2. This is embarrassing to say, but I don't think I've ever had a kaffir lime.

  3. Anna, I really love this post. I am such a big fan of kaffir limes . the fragance to start with brings me to my knees. I tend to put a leave with my rice when I cook it. I also like the taste of it. It is so different from the Tahiti lime ( the lime variety very common in Brasil). I was thinking about growing my own little plant and your post has encouraged me. Thank you for sharing all these lovely recipes and post. it is great.

  4. I love kafir! Great idea for a syrup. I'll try this with the lemongrass, too.


  5. Wow !! thanks for these Kaffir lime recipe. I love the fresh citrus fragrance of Kaffir lime leaves. I use them while cooking Tom Yum soups

  6. You may want to know that the French word (or rather the Reunionese one, from the island of La RĂ©union in the Indian Ocean) is combava. In the multi-ethnic cuisine of that island, they primarily use it by grating the fruit's peel.

    We brought a couple of fruits back from a trip there. When there was nothing left to grate, we put them in a pot with some soil, and didn't expect much to happen (in Denmark, even indoors, tropical plants don't get much of a chance). But now, five years later, we have three of those trees growing in one pot on our roof terrace here in Italy, happily providing us with more leaves than we can use.

    We've found so far that this plant is rather receptive to bugs and diseases. Obviously, one cannot use chemical insecticides, but spraying the plants with a brew made from onion peels seems to keep things under control - so far.

  7. Hi Anna, thanks for this! I just bought a whole bag of kaffir lime leaves for my thai curry and looking for ideas how to use those extra leaves. The eggplants dish is certainly a great idea! cheers :)

  8. Look for yellow fruit ripened on the tree in the first week of December. Available at Farmers Markets in San Diego where its grown in North County.


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