20.3.09

Freakish Friday: Limes

I wish I have a picture of the limes to show you. But unfortunately I will need to do some searching for the different varieties and it will take a while. Not sure what I'm blabbering on about? Just one simple word: Limes.

I get really freakish when I learnt that there is something that I'm confused about when it concerns a certain food or ingredients that I should be used to. That's how it all started really. The whole Food journey and the eternal passion for it just started growing.

This week, I came across a nice little article about a pretty little cake posted by the loveliest Split girl Tea. She wrote about a dessert made from Bergamot. Furthermore, she notified her readers that Bergamot is a native to Southeast Asia. Hey wait a minute! Before I go any further, I was shocked that I did not know anything about this native of ours. For my whole life, Bergamot seems to refer to a particular flower(which mistakenly never was) in Italy or Spain. I would never associate the name with something that is from where I spent 26 years of my life in!

So I was determined to find out what on earth it is. Googling it doesn't help as the wikipedia article pointed to Bergamots in Italy. It certainly doesn't resemble anything I ever known in SE asia. And I continued flipping through search pages until I hit a Thai website. Instantaneously, I was awestruck. I was looking for the humble Kaffir Lime all along. And for those who have not heard, it is indeed the most widely used plant in Southern and Southeastern asian cuisine. The leaves were highly priced (as a figure of speech) rather than the fruit or the zest of the fruit. Indeed my favourite Thai Tom Yam Goong (Spicy and sour seafood soup) needs a healthy addition of these leaves. At home, we mistakenly call them "Lemon Leaves". Dried or fresh versions are preferred. As to why only leaves were added in the dishes, try adding the zest of limes or lemons to any spicy dishes. The bitter aftertaste is not what you will want in your SE asian dishes!

If you go hunting for Kaffir Lime leaves in your local ethnic market, you will certainly not missed it. Its distinguished "double-leafed" leaf (imagine a normal lemon leaf and its mirror image) or hourglass shape leaf and the seemingly ugly looking fruit (someone give the fruits a Botox please!) tells you that this plant is exotic. For my dear friends in Southeast Asia who are equally confused, this Kaffir Lime is also known as "Thai Lime".

You can find pictures of the plant on this link.

Besides calling all the limes with a generic name of Lime, we confused things by giving them local names similar to lemons or oranges. We have two other members of the citrus family who are also known simply as Limes in the local market. If you are not SE asian, you have to be really sure what you are buying before stepping into our markets.

There is the Key Lime... erm.. if you do a search online, "Key" is added to its name to distinguish it from its generic name of "Lime" so as not to confused our western folks. This is the only one that we call Lime in our local markets or if you are conversing in Melayu "Limau Nipis". Ask for Key Limes and you'll probably get stares from the hawkers. If you prefer, the french name of "Citron Vert" or Green Lemons should suggest to you what you are looking for. Just don't expect too much sourness in this fruit.

For the strongest and most fragrant of our Southeast Asian limes (and a personal favourite) is Calamansi. Or in wikipedia, it is known as Calamondin. For the smallness of this fruit, it is packed full of citrusy goodness and enough sourness to wake you up instantly. If you wish to have Teh Limau Ice (Ice Lemon Tea) southeast asian style, try it with 4 to 5 of this little green bullets of Calamansi. It is one of the most widely used limes in SE asia. Elsewhere in the world, it's almost unknown and unheard of. But as with most SE asian food, its strong flavour is a pure winner for our all year round tropical weather. That is why it is the lime in our local tongue to be termed the "Sour Orange" (Orange in our dialect simply refers to citrusy fruits)!

And for those who are eager to brush up on your Melayu vocabulary, here's the different types of Limau (Lemon).

Bringing you a little closer to Southeast Asia, Ur Resident Chef signing off for the weekend in Croatia.


3 comments:

BK said...

Most interesting information. I could have easily associate Bergamot with the western side; didn't know that Bergamot is a native of Southeast Asia. Limau ice is definitely one of my friend's favourite drinks. He will almost surely order that when we have our supper at the Prata House. :)

Dutchie said...

I hv not seen the ugly kaffir lime fruits b4. My aunt had a lime patch when I was a kid n we used to plunder all the little fruits to make a sweetened zingy cold drink ! They r also great when squeezed over mee rebus n hokkien mee :-)

At home here I use dried kaffir lime leaves which works quite well in curries n other spicy indo dishes. Would be great to hv the frozen leaves but I've not come across them just yet ;-o

Oh btw, lemons to me has always been the yellow fruit which is mainly used for a vinaigrette base or using the zest to lift the flavour in sponge cakes ! Limes r simply the little green ones commonly used in SG but seldom sold in NL.

SheR. said...

>>BK.
Yes indeed. And I thought I should share this bit of "useless" information with my readers.

Oh I love Teh Limau Ice too!! Especially at Mr Teh Tarik's(China Square or is it Far East Square??)!

>> Dutchie.
I promise to find their photos and post them here. If I managed to get to the Chinatown somewhere...

Frozen Kaffir Leaves? Me never seen of too. Frozen Pandan Leaves are great though. The best way to store them really. Dried Lemongrass is just not doing justice to the plant itself.

Oh we get those Green round limes in Croatian supermarkets. I think probably a Spanish import. They just don't have the oompf of Limes that I know. Sad..