Why are we calling these ‘Makrut” Lime Leaves these days?
“What’s in a name?” For many years this tree has been called a kaffir lime tree, as the fruits are rough and seen as inferior. Kaffir was a term used to denote inferior persons in the former South Africa and other nations involved in the slave trade. In some Asian countries the term means “non-believer”. This word is now considered to be generally offensive and a racial slur, and consequently in future writings, I have adopted the name used in Thailand “Makrut” as Thailand is one country whose cuisine is well known globally, and uses these leaves copiously.
Other common names are:
- Indonesian lime leaves
- kaffir lime leaves
- lime leaf
- wild lime leaves
In this video I tell you about these leaves that add a wonderful, fragrant lime flavour without the acidity of lime juice.
Following is an extract from my book The Spice & Herb Bible 3rd Edition.
Makrut lime trees (Citrus hystrix, also known as C. papedia) are not to be confused with the common fruit-producing varieties such as Mexican, Tahitian or West Indian limes, nor the lime or linden trees (Tilia curopaca) of Europe and North America. Makrut lime trees are small, shrubby trees, 10–16 feet (3–5 m) tall with numerous needle-sharp spikes and unusual double leaves. Each pair of citrus-looking leaves, joined head to tail, is 31⁄4–6 inches (8–15 cm) long and 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) wide. Dark green, leathery and glossy on top, they are pale green and matte underneath. When torn or cut, makrut lime leaves emit a most heavenly scent that is a cross between lime, orange and lemon, but not like any one of these on their own. The taste of makrut lime leaves is similarly citrus-like and reminds one of the zest of a mandarin, yet it is lacking in the acid tones usually associated with members of this family. The fruit is larger than a Tahitian lime and has an incredibly rough, knobbly surface and thick skin, the outer rind of which is generally the only part used, as these lime fruits yield very little juice.