Photo credit: Betsy Jackson

The fragrant leaves of the wild lime tree are used widely in Thai and South East Asian cuisine the same way bay leaves are used in the West. The double leaves are joined tip to end, creating an unusual figure-eight shape. These double-lobed leaves add an unmistakable citrus aroma and flavor to soups, stews and curries. Their flavor is obviously reminiscent of common limes, but even stronger and more fragrant. 

In terms of preparation, the leaves are lightly muddled, or “bruised,” to release their oils, and then they’re added to fish or chicken stock to enhance soups, stews, and curries. The flavor pairs beautifully with freshly grated ginger, garlic, chilies, lemongrass, and of course, coconut. The leaves can also be steeped in hot liquid and then strained to impart a more modest flavor. For example, you could make a simple syrup for cocktails, or you could steep the leaves in milk as a base for custard or ice cream.

RECIPE: Chili, Kaffir, and Tamarind Tofu from the idolent cook


1. Slice chili into thin rings.
2. Slice kaffir lime leaves into thin strips, discarding the tough middle stem.
3. Mix tamarind concentrate, fish sauce and sugar in a bowl. Throw in most of the chilies and kaffir lime leaves, setting aside a pinch for garnishing later, if you like. Mix well to form a marinade. If you’re not into super sour flavors, taste
as you add in the tamarind concentrate to reach your preferred balance.
4. Cut the tofu into 2.5cm/1″ cubes and tumble them through the marinade. Leave it
for 15 minutes.
5. Heat up some oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. add the tofu cubes while
reserving most of the marinade intact in the mixing bowl. Once they develop a nice dark crust on their bottoms, pour in the marinade and let everything cook over medium heat, stirring and turning occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and clings lazily to the tofu.
6. Garnish with any leftover fresh chili and lime leaves, and serve immediately

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