Dayap / Lime

With this website I have learned something about food nearly every single day for the past six months. I never thought much about limes until a recent market aaday1jaunt where I saw two substantially different green citrus fruits labeled as “dayap.” I always thought “dayap” described what typically looked like green lemons until I noticed these smaller versions that were not as dark green. A little bit of research unearthed the following: there are two principal types of limes (photographed here) – “Mexican” (Citrus aurantifolia) and “Persian or Tahitian” (Citrus latifolia) which are both members of the Rutaceae Family. Now I have finally uncovered something that the Spaniards brought to Mexico and elsewhere in their vast land holdings that originated in this part of the world… Limes are believed to have originated in the Malaysian peninsula and spread around the world very early on (say a few hundred years BC) by land to the Middle East then Southern Europe then to the West Indies and onto Mexico, California and Florida (hence the Mexican name) and another strain that went onto possibly Brazil then Australia and Tahiti (hence the Persian/Tahiti nomenclature). The English name “lime” is probably from the Arabic root laimun or Persian limoo.

Limes thrive in the tropics and are 50% more acidic than lemons, their sub-tropical cousins. They have a distinctive citrus flavor that is used in various food aaday2preparations including cooked dishes, marinades, drinks, etc. Their oils and fragrance are also used in many different applications. The smell and flavor are bracing, acidic, clean and crisp. Here is something truly native to the region and yet its two most common names “Mexican” and “Persian” are so removed from Malayan peninsula that most people on the planet if asked would probably not know where limes came from…hrmpphh. Like who cares, right? I do. Even more bizarre is the fact that these smaller limes in the photo look nearly identical from the outside to the more famous “Key Limes” aaday3 that are the basis for the Key Lime Pie in Florida. Can you see this being successfully marketed as a Malayan Lime Pie??? The key lime is a close relative of the Mexican lime, so close in fact it has exactly the same scientific name. It is interesting that a cross-section of the two fruit shows a marked difference in the color of the pulp – the smaller ones have a lime-green color while the larger ones are rather white. Smell and taste are similar, however. I have to make a note to myself to try making a “Dayap Pie a la Marketman” to see if it tastes any good.

Sources: Harold McGee’s “On Food & cooking” and Alan Davidson’s “the Oxford companion to Food” and Elizabeth Schneider’s Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables.


19 Responses

  1. Mmmmm…fresh dayap juice is something I have only recently started enjoying (would you believe?!) as I never really veered from my favorite calamansi juice. Now I love both! My mother loves Key Lime Pie though, so do share the recipe when you get around to making a Dayap Pie a la Marketman…Let’s see if I can successfully market “Malayan Lime Pie” to her :-)

  2. We are lucky to have a fruiting dayap plant in our garden. They say that it is a sensitive plant or a better word to describe it is the Tagalog term “maselan.” I don’t know if it is old wives tale but my husband’s uncle never allows anyone to pick the fruits after 10am or by a woman specially if it is her time of the month or else “magtatampo” the plant and then it will no longer bear fruits.

    Like Joey, everyone in the family loves fresh dayap juice with lots of ice. So very refreshing on hot summer days.
    the flavor is much, much better than calamansi juice.

    We also use it to flavor crab fat paste. We just get the aligue from female alimango, mash it until it turns watery. Add some salt, dayap juice and a bit of water and then we cook it over low fire stirring constantly until it cooks to a paste. Cholesterol overload but super sarap on hot steaming rice.

  3. Joey, Dayap pie coming up in tomorrow’s post. I also added your website 80 breakfasts on my links page, other readers should check it out. I am so “duhh” I just figured out joey=80breakfasts. Maricel, great comments. I would figure on the old wives tale but for safety why risk it? Crab fat with dayap sounds positively delicious and totally banned on my current diet. I have cheated so many times already its amazing I have lost weight at all…

  4. Thanks Marketman!

    Maricel, flavoring aligue with dayap sounds absolutely great! I love aligue and almost anything that you have to use “cholesterol overload” to describe :-)

  5. MM, which one is the so-called kaffir limes which are very popular in Thai cooking? I don’t think our native dayap is the same as kaffir lime because the dayap leaves, as opposed to kaffir lime leaves, do not produce the same aroma and taste that characterized Thai cuisine. I any case I use the big ones that look like lemon and yet smell and taste differently for my thai recipes and for my gin tonic and other cocktail drinks.

  6. Virgilio, kaffir limes are different from dayap or regular limes. I will do a post on them in the future but for now you should treat them as a separate type of lime. Kaffir, by the way is more common a name but the better name is Makrut lime as they are referred to in Thailand. They have different aromatic leaves (I have a plant 5 feet outside my window as I type) and their fruit inedible, I think. They are indispensible in Thai cooking.

  7. Where can I find a Thai store in Manila? I would like to buy kaffir leaves that I could use in my cooking.

  8. Kaffir lime is rarely available commercially. Many people grow their own trees, as I do. There is a person who brings in Thai Deli stuff but I am not sure if they have fresh herbs… here is the last known number I have for them… Thai Deli 9362810 and Fax 7320408.

  9. good day, Where can i get some Kaffir lime seed? I wish to grow them in my garden as Marketman did. Has anyone tried cooking Tom Yum without the Kaffir lime leaves? Does it taste the same?

  10. does anyone know who is a supplier of kaffir leaves?? or where can i buy a kaffir plant that is 1 year old??

  11. art, I have a post in my archives covering kaffir or makrut lime. I saw a nice bushy young plant at Salcedo Market last weekend. They also have small ones at the garden shops in retail section of the seedling bank in quezon city…retail prices start at PHP1,500 for a small plant to PHP3,000 for a larger one…

  12. thanks for the reply. However, i am not looking for squid ink but squid brand fish sauce. Do you know any store where i can get this brand. Thank you.

  13. If anyone is interested, I sell estabablished kaffir lime plants for P1,000 per plant.

    Youmay contact me at 09174711249. I also sell dried kaggir lime leaves at P70/pack.


  14. hi i am in subic area and would like to know where i can get key limes. i have one key lime tree but its only one year old. i also have 2 kaffir limes that are doing well and have a friend who does cuttings. my numner is 0929 675 3351. i dont understand why its so hard to get key lime here its the perfect climate to grow them.

  15. hi! we have lots of fruit-bearing dayap plants in our backyard. and we also planted some more. i tasted the leche flan with dayap juice made by the late mother-in-law of my sister and its really really nice. my husband and i are interested to know what other recipes can be complemented with dayap. thanks

  16. One of the things I like making is a dayap flavored taisan, which is a chiffon cake cooked like a leche flan.



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