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Asian cuisine is full of delicacies and can provide a gustatory experience that no other cuisine can give you. It’s quite unique and for a good reason. It uses ingredients that are quite exotic and can provide a strong flavor to any dish. Asia has been known throughout history to thrive on the spice trade.
Lucky for us, Asia isn’t selfish with its spice and is willing to trade with us and give us a glimpse of their cuisine. In the U.S. there are plenty of restaurants that serve Asian food, often with chefs from the corresponding countries. Once you have a taste of their meals, you’re bound to come back wanting more, if you can handle the spice, that is. However, these restaurants are usually quite expensive, which means it wouldn’t be practical to go there that often. That could be quite hard, as the food itself just hooks you and keeps you wanting more.
To combat this problem, some people would resort to just home cooking. I mean, how hard can getting a Chinese Cookbook, an Indian Cookbook, or Japanese Cookbook be, right? However, it can be quite hard to find the ingredients as they’re quite rare here in the U.S. This article will be concerning those who are trying to learn how to cook Thai food. More specifically, we’ll be going over how you can replace kaffir lime leaves, as it’s one of the harder ingredients to find. It’s also required in many staple Thai foods.
What Are Kaffir Lime Leaves?
The Kaffir lime leaves have a lot of names that vary from region to region. Citrus hystrix is the proper scientific term for these leaves. It is a part of the magroot (makrut, makrud) lime plant.
The plant is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Its leaves can be found in the majority of Asian Markets. They’re most commonly found in Thailand. The plant also yields dark green fruits that can be utilized for cooking as well.
When it comes to the actual scent of the leaves. They’re basically a pine and citrus mixture, with the freshest leaves having the strongest aroma. However, they are extremely rare outside of Asia. What you’ll most likely find in the market here is probably frozen, or dried. They’re not as potent as the fresh counterpart, but as they say, “beggars can’t be choosers,” so that’s the closest you’re probably going to get.
Between dried leaves and frozen ones, we recommend frozen leaves as they retain their aroma better than the dried ones. If you also happen to have fresh leaves that you intend to use later, you can also freeze them in your Chest Freeze or Compact Refrigerator, or simply store them in your FoodSaver.
Here’s some trivia for you, the term “kaffir” in Arabic means “infidel.” With that said, try to avoid referring to the plant leaves as “kaffir leaves’ to avoid any unintended offense or ambiguity in general. You can call them by the plant’s name “magroot,” or if just “K-leaves.”
Buying Fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves
Just as we mentioned before, stumbling upon fresh kaffir lime leaves can be a real challenge. Your best bet would be going to Asian markets and trying your luck there. Thai and Vietnamese specialty markets have better odds, as their cuisine relies a lot on kaffir lime leaves. With that said, you’re probably still going to find dried, or frozen leaves.
Another option is online shopping. This, however, can be quite risky. If the site you’re ordering from is unreliable, you can end up with rotten, wilted leaves instead of fresh one. In order to minimize the risk, you should be meticulous in your research and only order from sites that have a good reputation, and even then, you should always check the user reviews on each product as there are always exceptions, even in a good site.
However, don’t let that discourage you and turn you off from online shopping, we’re just trying to provide you with the fullest picture. There are plenty of happy customers who shop for their leaves online, so it isn’t a bad method of obtaining the leaves.
If you happen to find fresh K-leaves, make sure to buy a lot, as they’ll come in very handy. Even if you don’t use them all in one go, you can always store them and freeze them for long periods of time. You can keep them stored for up to 6 months and even more.
Storing Fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves
If you intend to save the kaffir lime leaves for future use, you either freeze them or just put them in the refrigerator. With that said, before you proceed with one of those two methods, you should make sure to meticulously rinse and dry the kaffir lime leaves.
Refrigerating the Kaffir Lime Leaves:
When it comes to refrigerating kaffir lime leaves, you’re going to need to wrap them in a moist paper towel, then put them into a Ziploc bag. We recommend you place the pack in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. We also advise that you use the refrigerated leaves within the next two weeks.
Freezing the Kaffir Lime Leaves
When it comes to freezing kaffir lime leaves, there are two ways to go about doing so. Either you clean and dry them in a plastic, airtight bag, in which they can last up to 6 months or more. Or, you can freeze them one by one, then move them in the freezer-safe container.
While the other method may seem tedious, it can save you the trouble of separating the leaves later.
With all of that out of the way, now it’s time to dive into the kaffir lime leaves substitutes you can use in your dishes. Which alternative you’re going t choose will ultimately depend on what is available in your kitchen or cabinet. And now, without further ado, let us dive into the subject matter!
The Best Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitutes
When it comes to kaffir lime leaves, there are plenty of substitutes you can use. With that said, these will not replicate the exact same effect as the K-leaves. You just can’t beat the real thing.
#1 – Citrus Leaves
While not as potent and aroma-rich as the K-leaves, they serve a similar purpose as them. If you want a stronger aroma, you can just use more leaves, and that should help enunciate their aroma a bit. Lemon, lime, or orange leaves shouldn’t differ from each other.
#2 – Lime Zest
Persian or Tahiti limes are pretty common. You shouldn’t really face any problems in that regard. Their citrusy flavor and fresh scent make them a fine substitute to kaffir lime leaves.
When it comes to implementing them in your dish, it’s really simple and straightforward. You can either slice them in two and add them to your meal, or you can use their zest. The zest of a lime should equate to about two kaffir lime leaves.
However, if you choose to add the lime halves to your dish, you should proceed to remove them before you serve the meal.
#3 – Lemon and Lime Zest Combination
If you want to get an even closer taste to the real kaffir lime leaves, you can use one 1.5 teaspoons of chopped lime zest along with half a teaspoon of lemon zest to replace one kaffir leaf.
#4 – The Bay Leaf, Lemon Thyme, and Lime Zest
It should come as no surprise that a complex aroma such as that of kaffir lime leaves, will require a complex set of ingredients to replicate. This is probably as close as you can get to kaffir lime leaves’ taste.
It’s a delicate mix, so you need to be precise with your dosing. You’re going to need one-quarter of a teaspoon of each lime zest, along with a quarter of a teaspoon lemon thyme, and finally, half of a small bay leaf.
#5 – Curry Leaves
You can pick curry leaves from sweet neem trees. They are quite similar to other citrus leaves as they provide a similar citrusy aroma but are closer in their potency to the kaffir lime leaves.
With that said, we must warn you that curry leaves are NOT TO BE CONSUMED. You should ABSOLUTELY GET RID OF THEM before serving the meal.
These substitutes should help you in your endeavors to recreate the exquisite Thai cuisine experience right in the comfort of your home. One last thing, remember to keep either your Wine Fridge, a Beer Glass or a Champagne Glass nearby, as Asian food is best served in your Dinnerware Set with one of those beverages.
We hope that you got something useful out of this article, and we wish you the best of luck on your cooking journey!
While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!