The kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix DC., Rutaceae), also known as kieffer lime and limau purut is a lime native to Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, used in Southeast Asian cuisine, but grown worldwide as a backyard shrub.
The kaffir lime is a rough, warty green fruit that grows on thorny bush with aromatic and distinctively shaped "double" leaves. It is well suited to container growing. The green lime fruit is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size (approx. 4 cm wide).
The word Kaffir have may come from German Käfer, meaning bug. The leaves of the Kaffir Lime do bear a slight resemblance to an insect.
The Oxford Companion to Food (ISBN 0-19-211579-0) recommends avoiding the name kaffir lime and instead using makrud lime because kaffir is a white Afrikaner racial slur for blacks meaning "infidel", from the Arabic "kafir" that Portugese explorers used for the native Africans. Kafir was from the Semitic K-F-R meaning "to cover." It is a derogatory term still and several alternate names such as Thai, Makrut, Wild, or Asian lime are used to avoid causing offense.
The rind of the kaffir lime is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavor. Its hourglass-shaped leaves (comprising the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like leaf-stalk or petiole) are widely used in Thai and Lao cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum), and Cambodian cuisine (for the base paste "Krueng"). The leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine (especially Balinese and Javanese), for foods such as sayur asam, and are used along with Indonesian bay leaf for chicken and fish. They are also found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisines.
The leaves can be used fresh or dried, and can be stored frozen.
The juice and rinds are used in traditional Indonesian medicine; for this reason the fruit is referred to in Indonesia as jeruk obat ("medicine citrus"). The oil from the rind also has strong insecticidal properties. The juice is generally regarded as too acidic to use in food preparation, but finds use as a cleanser for clothing and hair, mainly in Thailand.
The zest of the fruit is used in creole cuisine and to impart flavor to "arranged" rums in the Réuni.
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