Have you ever noticed the dark green leaves that are often used as decoration on a tasty Thai dish? Those leaves are more than likely the popular herb used in many Thai dishes known as kaffir. The leaf itself is found on a kaffir lime that is commonly grown in many Southeast Asian countries.
The plant is known as ma-krut in the Thai language and also referred to as the ‘Thai lime’ or ‘wild limes.’ Not only are the leaves used in traditional Thai cooking, but the lime juice and rind are also used as seasonings. You’ll find this herb in many popular dishes such as Tom Yum and Thai curry.
How to Identify Kaffir
The kaffir lime itself is an odd shaped fruit that is significantly distinguishable from other limes. Just like most limes, it resembles a tree green color, however, it is bumpier than ordinary limes. When you look at it, you will almost think that the lime has grown crazy warts or that it is moldy. The leaves are a couple inches long, they are also thick and look glossy. They almost look like a bay leaf but they are more of a vibrant green than a dark forest green. It’s not hard to find kaffir leaves at an outdoor wet market or in a traditional Thai kitchen.
Cooking with Kaffir
If you’re looking for a secret ingredient to add flavor to your soups and curry dishes, you’ll want to have kaffir on hand. The flavor can be described as a mélange between a lime, lemon, and mandarin orange. It can be more overpowering than other subtle spices used in your recipes. The great thing is that it has a unique flavor of its own, so making your dish stand out won’t be a problem.
When you cook with kaffir, you can use the leaf and the fruit in different ways. You can chop the leaf into small slivers to create a citrusy aftertaste to the meal you are preparing. It is suggested to chop the leaf into diagonal slivers and to avoid mincing it, or else the flavor will be too strong. Mincing it is often preferred when making soups since many broths need additional flavoring.
Many cooks like to use the whole kaffir leaf as a garnish on top of their meal or on the side of the plate. You can also grate the rind of the bumpy and bright green lime and squeeze its juice in with the food you’re making. Be careful since the rind creates more of a pungent taste. Other spices and ingredients that pair well with kaffir are cardamom, basil, cumin, curry leaves, mint, ginger, chilies, cilantro, and lemongrass.
Where to Find Kaffir in Thailand
If you’re trying to find a way to get your hands on kaffir so you can start cooking with it, there are many places to look for it. You can always go to a wet market where they sell local produce, spices, and herbs. Wet markets are usually outdoor markets that sell wholesale ingredients. They are popular throughout Thailand and many restaurant owners and cooks do their recipe shopping at these types of markets.
Another place to look for kaffir is at the local supermarket. Many big name grocery stores such as Big C and Tops Market usually carry kaffir. You can also find cans of dried kaffir leaves that are already chopped. In Bangkok, you can find a can of kaffir leaves at a Tops Market in the Pratunam district. The Tops Market is located in the MBK Center, one of the larger shopping malls in Pratunam.
If you’re looking to try a dish made with the kaffir leaf, the Pratunam Market is the perfect place to find a delicious kaffir infused dish. There are many food stalls that serve Thai classics such as Tom yum, pad Thai, yellow curry, and spicy stir-fries. If you’re looking for a place to stay that’s close to all the lively markets in the Pratunam district, be sure to check out the rooms at Centre Point. By staying at Centre Point, you will have no trouble discovering the extraordinary kaffir herb.
We hope you get to experience the wonderful taste of kaffir when you visit Thailand. You’ll love it so much, we guarantee you’ll be on a hunt to bring the herb back to your home country!