Kaffir Lime

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Kaffir Lime Trees

The kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix DC., Rutaceae), also known as kieffer lime, makrut, or magrood, (Bai Ma-gkood,PewMa-gkrood) is a type of lime native to Indonesia, commonly used in Thai cuisine, and widely grown worldwide as a backyard shrub. The kaffir lime tree is well suited to container growing. The fruit is rough, bumpy green and grows on very thorny bush with very fragrant leaves. Even a small scratch of the lime releases a roomful of refreshing fragrance, like a fragrant bouquet of citrus blossoms.

The green lime colored fruit is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size (approx. 4 cm wide). The leaves are distinguished by their hourglass shaped leaves.

Even though the kaffir lime is not the most beautiful fruit, it is incredibly important in Southeast Asian cooking (especially Thai recipes). Kaffir lime leaves cannot be replaced with any other type of citrus leaves. Their flavor is so important that anyone following a Thai recipe should take the time to find and use them as their special characteristics are irreplaceable. In most regions of Thailand, the kaffir lime is so beloved that almost everyone's home in the countryside has at least one tree growing in the yard. Because its strong flavor can over power the more subtle ones in a dish, the rind should be used sparingly, grated or chopped finely and reduced in a mortar with other paste ingredients until indistinguishable.

Some recommend that the name kaffir lime should be avoided in favor of makrud lime because kaffir is an offensive term in some cultures. For this reason, some South Africans refer to the fruit as K-lime. However, kaffir lime appears to be a much more common discription.


The kaffir lime's hourglass-shaped leaves (comprising the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like leaf-stalk or petiole) are widely used in Thai cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum), Lao cuisine, and Cambodian cuisine, for the base paste known as "Krueng". The leaves are also popular in Indonesian cuisine (Javanese and Balinese), for sayur assam - literally sour vegetables, and are also used along with Indonesian bay leaf for chicken and fish. They are also found in Malay and Burmese cuisines.

Kaffir lime is also used as a very effective cleaner, cleanser, and natural deodorizer.

The fruit is sometimes referred to in Indonesia as jeruk obat - literally "medicine citrus" because the juice and rinds of the kaffir lime are used in traditional Indonesian medicine.

Kaffir lime shampoo leaves the hair squeaky clean and invigorates the scalp. It is believed to freshen one's mental outlook and ward off evil spirits. Kaffir lime has also been used for ages as a natural bleach to remove tough stains.

In folk medicine, the juice of kaffir lime is said to promote gum health and is recommended for use in brushing teeth and gums. The rind is an ingredient in medical tonics believed to be good for the blood and the essential oils in the fruit are incorporated into various ointments. Like lemon grass and galanga, the rind is also known to have beneficial properties for the digestive system.

Kaffir Lime Plant