Kaffir/Makrut Limes!!!


During the first year or two of this blog, the thrill of discovering something new or unusual in the markets sometimes made me a bit giddy. And that included all of the more common vegetables and greens available in your neighborhood wet market. Looking at things with eyes wide open and with a heightened appreciation for various food products, I found myself hungry for more, seeking out ingredients and knowledge with increasing urgency. But with nearly 1,900 posts in the archives and maybe 300+ of those on produce, the thrill of finding something “new” or undiscovered occurs less often these days… and I think I have to travel to new regions of the country to discover new produce or ways of making use of the produce. So if you were beside me at my favorite stall at Market!Market! yesterday called FreshFields, you might have thought I was a bit unstable… my conversation with the saleslady went something like this…

MM : “Dalawang romaine hearts, dalawang baby bok choy, dalawang kai lan…”
MM : “Isang edamame, kamatis… Miss, ano ito?”
Saleslady : “Ay Sir, Kaffir Lime.”
MM : “Dayap or Kaffir Lime?” (MM slightly hopping around with a glint in his eyes)
Saleslady : “Hindi Sir, talagang Kaffir Lime, nagbungga yung mga puno…”
MM : “Are you jiving me? Ay, I mean, talaga? Sabihin mo kay Edwin (one of the owners) matagal na ako nagtatanim ng kaffir lime, at wala pa rin akong bungga! Puro lalaki or puro babae lang ang mga puno ko siguro…”
Saleslady : “Hahaha…”
MM : Thinking to self — can you artificially impregnate your kaffir/makrut lime trees? :)
Saleslady : “Sir, limang piso lang ang isa! Gusto ninyong amoyin?” (she slices one lime open, and OMIGOD, it is indeed kaffir lime, I am clearly ecstatic, and other shoppers nearby suspect I am on illegal substances)
MM : “BUY, BUY, BUY!!!” Said in brain only with TORA, TORA, TORA as the inspiration…
MM : “Miss, sampung piraso lang please.”
Saleslady : (Mildly shocked at windfall sale) “Salamat. Sabihin ko kay Sir (Edwin) dumaan kayo.” (Big smile)
MM : “Salamit din.” Walks back to car with a lighter gait…


Bravo Edwin! Bravo FreshField! Now I have 10 fabulously fragrant makrut limes. Now I have to say they don’t look like the knobby, ugly looking mature limes you find in Thailand, but maybe they’re just not old enough, or the plants still need to mature some more. I just sliced one open for these photos and my fingers smell like heaven. There are few scents more refreshing than fresh lime. And now I have to cook a Thai meal this weekend to make use of this unexpected bounty. Known as citrus hystrix scientifically, it differs slightly from our dayap, of which I am also a HUGE fan. I understand from some reader comments that there is a similar fruit in Mindanao to this one photographed here… I say if the leaves of the plant look like this, then it is also a Makrut lime. Ahh, the thrill of discovery at the markets…


68 Responses

  1. MM,

    Those kaffir lime leaves are great with salmon. I know you’ve said you don’t quite like the taste of salmon… but with this leaves.. it taste great.
    here’s the recipe:
    fillet of salmon
    onions quartered
    tomatoes quartered
    scallions diagonal big cut
    ginger thinly sliced
    kaffir lime leaves
    olive oil
    hot long peppers (similar to sinigang)
    lemon juice
    ground pepper

    mix all fresh ingredients in a bowl, mix with olive oil & ground pepper. Make a pouch out of heavy duty aluminum foil, grease with olive oil and place few of the veggie mix in the bottom as base for the salmon. Pile the remaining veggies on top of the salmon, and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the veggies and salmon. Add a little bit more olive oil. close the pouch at either end and bake in an oven at 350 degrees for about 45 mins. or until done. serve with lemon and patis on the side as there no salt added in the original mixture. The flavor and aroma of kaffir leaves would have permeated the whole salmon and veggies.


  2. i see those in some supermarkets here in davao, but never thought they were kaffir because i’m more familiar with the wrinkled rind. noticed the identical smell, though. wach time i pass a pile of these or dayap, i can’t help but pierce the peel of one (near the stem end) just so i can smell it in my hand. (shhh…don’t tell them it’s me. i make sure i leave just a teeny-tiny mark on the peel.)

  3. like you MM, we have several kaffir shrubs and a big tree even! I know it is kaffir just because of the unique leaf shape it has. No fruits either…but a favorite place for these beautiful butterflies (black with red-orange streaks) to hang their cocoons on! I’m happy with these yet fruitless trees just because of this phenomenon…as well as the tasty curry dishes, their leaves helps me with! I’ll also try RoBStaR’s recipe. Thanks!!

  4. I swung by Freshfield yesterday at about lunchtime! Was quickly buying stuff for my salad, so didn’t notice the kaffirs. Maybe you got everything! :-) This is also where I buy my multigrain bread – the best in the city, I swear. Apparently baked by a german national somewhere in San Pedro Laguna. Sorry to miss the kaffirs, and bumping into you :-)

    Thanks RobStaR for the salmon recipe. Not very fond of salmon myself, so have been looking for a recipe that will make me like it a bit more. I find that salmon has that slightly bitter fishy taste that maybe the kaffir will soften.

  5. hahaha! just like a kid in a candy store…i could picture you. i am that way too, if i see something i have been looking for and suddenly find it. will anticipate the recipes on kaffir lime …thanks.

  6. MM,
    I had to go back to your earlier post on dayap. Did you say that dayap is different from key lime? If they have the same scientific name, how do you tell them apart?
    I think I’ve already tried dayap pie (baked a la key lime pie by a friend.

  7. Oh wow! I would totally be jumping around too! Have to visit them again soon…was there yesterday but was in a rush so I probably didn’t notice them…

  8. Tricia, my spoken Pilipino is as bad as my spelling… :) joey and socky, I was there yesterday after lunch! Marketfan, dayap and key limes are the same… but key limes ripen a little differently because of the specific weather conditions where they are. However, I did make a dayap pie a la marketman and it was SUPERB. chunky, yup, the simplest things in life can sometimes give the greatest joy. Socky, I was good, I left 6-8 pieces of lime! But one could easily have missed it, it was even inside a plastic bag! :) bernadette, the butterflies love the leaves, one year I lost nearly an entire tree worth of leaves to caterpillars! millet, yes, folks from davao say you have this… how lucky you are! RobStar, thank you so much for that recipe, will have to try it the next time I have salmon in the house!

  9. Socky…don’t blame you for not favouring salmon because of its fishy aftertaste…try this: after filleting. hold it by the tail end and run a sharp knife underneath the flesh close to the skin and remove the skin. …then cut the salmon in portions holding the knife at a 45 degree angle. then proceed with RobStaR’s recipe…you can also use parchment paper and enclose the salmon pouch like a half moon sealing it like you would an empanada…whenready to serve, have a pair of scissors handy and cut through the top parchment….SALMON EN PAPILLOTE.

  10. Nice find MM! I’ll be going there this week, i’ll be sure to look for them. Hopefully they still have a few. I’m currently trying to grow 2 kaffir lime trees (my previous one died). After reading your post before about your trees being fruitless, i did some research.

    “1. You need two genetically diverse plants for cross pollination to ensure fruiting. If all of your plants have been propagated vegetatively, rooted cuttings for example, the genetic diversity will not be there. You will never see fruit”
    – from https://www.h2othouse.com/html/kaffir_lime.html

    I also read that you can pollinate by hand, though it requires collecting pollen and transfering it to the other tree. I guess you can call that “articially impregnating your tree” :)

  11. peterb, HAHAHA, thanks for that info!!! How cool indeed, the things you didn’t know. And so right. All of our 5 plants are marcotted from the same mom, so they obviously don’t approve of incest. I need to buy other plants to add to the diversity pool and maybe then I will get fruit! Thanks!

  12. Uy! I saw some unattractive limes like these in the Lung Center market, maybe they were makrut? I’ll do a millet nga and pinch them (gamay lang) next time. Thanks, Socky, for the tip re bread. I’m always on the lookout for really good bread in Manila. Have you tried Mandarin Oriental? Also good heavy stuff. RoBStaR, would it be different if I placed the salmon etc in a small baking dish and covered it with foil, instead of making a foil/parchment paper packet?

  13. Pardon my ignorance but I have never seen a makrut lime live and in person. I love dayap though. Can I just use the makrut lime exactly the same way?

  14. Buti hindi tayo nagkitakita sa Fresh Field…baka sabihin ng mga tao…may sniffing session of illegal whatever…hahaha! I so love dayap and my mom’s dayap tree served us well when we were kids. It’s also a very good flavor for leche flan. I had makrut lime years ago and luckily it bore two fruits then died. boohoohoo!

    I saw one in Shopwise 3 weeks ago but never got to go back to buy it.

  15. zena, click on one of the links in the main post to an earlier post I wrote on the leaves of the plant, so you can see the primary distinguishing feature of the leaves. As for the taste, the leaves and zest of the lime are often used, many times, the juice is minimal. But the juice is critical for the citrus hit in Thai and other Southeast Asian dishes… it definitely differs from a green lemon (often sold here as limes, misleading) and even our wonderful dayap, whose leaves are not like that of a Makrut’s…

  16. Millet, you can run into a lot of trouble if you did that in a French market where touching the fruit display is a big no no. Yes in the cheese shop, you can press, poke and palpate to your heart’s content.

  17. Thanks, MM. I checked out the post on leaves. So not much juice but the zest and leaves are good, hmmm… ideas.

  18. Off-topic: I searched on your archives for beef salpicao and it says none found. I have not been successful with beef salpicao. I wonder if you cook it at home?

  19. MM… those kaffir limes really look different…. even the pith… normally the pith of the kaffir lime is very very thin. and the segment patterns are different too. the baby ones from thailand or even local one are already knobby and ugly…

  20. Scent of Kaffir leaves is like heaven for me.You can add them to your bangus siningang and I can eat them for weeks.

  21. Hello Marketman,

    In Pangasinan they call it kabelew but, the fruit is a bit larger than ones you have photograph. The leaves are the same exact thing. It’s perfect for siningang or just simply mix it with sabaw ny bagoong na isda for dipping sauce for inihaw, pritong isda, pritong karne or my favorite lechon. “GOT RICE?”

  22. Any idea where I can get saplings of this plant? I intend to give them to two of my mother’s friends who have super green thumbs. If they can’t make them bear fruit, then I don’t know of anyone else who can!

  23. Hey MM! Need to know how you grafted your makrut. Is that the same as marcotting (?) where you wound a suitable limb, wrap a bit of soil around it until it develops roots? Tried that with my makrut and ended up with a thorny, bald but vibrantly green limb! It never sprouted leaves but stayed green for months when repotted — until i got bored with tending to a green stick.

    Would really love to know how to propagate the plant.

    By the way — I didn’t know that squealing over produce was not a done thing. Edwin’s girls as well as the Nenita farm staff (the only place i could get real limes — not ‘baguio lemons’ masquerading as limes) are probably used to it — they were never very surprised with my squealing. :)

  24. toping, they sell them at stalls in the Manila seedling bank in Quezon City or sometimes weekend markets. inked chef…oh no, you think these are dayaps or some other lime? It certainly is possible, I haven’t seen a cross section of a mature one from Thailand… but I think these smelled different from dayaps and again, the leaves… hmmm, but I am willing to buy that these might possibly be a slihtly different strain… will ask the guy from FreshField the next time I see him… tricia, I don’t think I have posted a beef salpicao recipe… I haven’t made one at home in ages… Apicio, at a Venetian market once I reached to pick up a peach and the Italian momma of a vendor smacked my hand something fierce. I was so shocked I asked for 3 peaches and she picked them out and bagged them for me. Later, I realized she gave me the 3 worst peaches in the pile. I wanted to go back and force feed her peaches but a tussle with a 300 pound fruit vendor on the narrow passageways in Venice would really be a sight to behold…

  25. Ooops — posted before reading this one. Maybe I did something wrong with the grafting. :( Just as makrut incest might be a taboo — ya think i put to much pressure on the poor thing to thrive?

    Marketman says:

    peterb, HAHAHA, thanks for that info!!! How cool indeed, the things you didn’t know. And so right. All of our 5 plants are marcotted from the same mom, so they obviously don’t approve of incest. I need to buy other plants to add to the diversity pool and maybe then I will get fruit! Thanks!

  26. madspartan, you marcotted the right way, you may just have to try it again. To be honest, it’s our brilliant part-time gardener that does it, I tend to kill any plants I touch. I wouldn’t marcott until the main tree was pretty big and healthy though…

    inked_chef, here are more thoughts… In Indonesia, where the makrut or makrud is believed to have originated, the key determining factor are the leaves, as a double leaf seems unique to the makrud…

    But you and i may be thinking of slightly different varieties of lime such as the jeruk nipis (literally thinner skin) in this photo that Indonesians use with everything from sop buntot to sambal, etc. This lime is a citrus aurantifolia, closer to a dayap or key lime in ancestry, not a citrus hystrix.

    They also have a jeruk limau which id really dark green… The mystery continues… I will as Edwin from FreshField if this particular lime in the photo came from a tree/bush with double winged leaves… that would be the determining factor, I suppose. :)

  27. We all know that fruit trees and plants in general vary from their parents when grown from seeds. If marcoted or grafted though, the climate and growing conditions also come into play in determining the quality of the fruits. It is said that cabernet sauvignon is so transparent this way and so sensitive to its terroir that each harvest takes on vastly differing qualities depending on how and where it was grown.

  28. Cumin, it would be the same..your way would be preferable for a dinner party. you can also use whole salmon minus the head as long as u fillet it and put veggies in the bottom, middle and on top..

  29. hahaha…that venetian market story is so funny. MM intimidated into buying peaches? that seller must have been one “amazona”!

    apicio, i’d be in cheese heaven then. i remember an old tv ad for chicken that had sylvia la torre saying her chickens were so fresh, “di na kailangang amoy-amuyin, pisil-pisilin, kurot-kurutin”.

    jdawgg, yes, whenever these limes are available here, i think of patis bicol or bagoong na isda from balayan or pangasinan. i put both the juice and a few gratings of the peel…haaay, sarap!

  30. yes market manila …. kaffir lime tress do have fruits and i got my lime tree from a friend in cebu 3 years ago and this is the first year it gave my fruits.

    what you got would be the second batch of fruits we were able to harvest from our lone kaffir lime tree.

    i believe in japan they sell it at a crazy JPY 100 each !!!

    the trick there to have your lime free fruit is to do some fertility dance every spring or autumn … hehehe

  31. fresh field, WAIT, you have only ONE tree? So who fertilized it? A neighborhood rogue kalamansi? :) Okay, folks, you have confirmation directly from the horse’s mouth. These limes came from a kaffir lime tree. And I saw the leaves sold from the same tree and they were definitely the double ovate leaf… so I have to agree this is a kaffir lime, albeit without the bizarre skin more common to makruts in Thailand… Thanks fresh field!

  32. fresh field, one tree?! Any more fruits left?? Pwede be reservation? hehe How long till you get new fruits to bear?

    MM, haha rogue kalamansi! Maybe butterflies?

  33. yup, thats it kaffir lime crossed with calamansi kaya smoother skin…marcot makrut…tongue twister :-)

  34. hello MM – i just love this fragrant lime variety & so far we’ve been lucky with our kaffir lime plant – https://kitchenartworks.blogspot.com/2007/10/kaffir-lime-plant.html – this is the knobby Thai variety as you can see, we grow it in a small pot beside 2 calamansi plants also in pots, could they be cross pollinating? if you have calamansi o other citrus plants, maybe you can place them together & see if it works? just an idea – thanks!

  35. i think i know what happened..we have two native durian trees in the backyard, adn when they were more than ten years old and still had not borne fruit, we decided it was not worth the heartache, and it was better to plant rambutan or mangosteen trees instead. so we called in a guy to cut the trees, he went out back, checked the trees, all the while talking about how he would do the cutting the following week. lo and behold, a few days later, hundreds of tiny flower buds appeared along the branches. and that is how our durian trees saved themselves, and that is why we have 10-20 large (4 kilos each!) durians every season! try some scare tactics on your makruts, MM.

  36. we have lots of dayap tree planted in the garden.. i was wondering if i can substitute dayap leaves to a recipe calling for kaffir lime leaves. i have bought the dried kaffir lime leaves, it did well however i cannot julienne it to use as a garnish.

    i have thought of buying a kaffir lime plant but our garden is already too crowded. thanks!^_^

  37. zofhia, I don’t think the leaves of a regular lime tree carry the same fragrance and intensity as that of a makrut lime, but you could try. millet, hahaha, scare tactics, huh?…

  38. Umm, when is durian season Millet? And can you accommodate an agreeable and undemanding paying guest around that time? And since you brought up Sylvia la Torre, Florante Aguilar is organizing a guitar concert around the theme of Kundiman in SF this season and she is projected to be one of the draws. Yes she’s still around.

  39. apicio, durian season is around july-september, but since we had plenty of rain in the early months of this year, the yield was meager – i think we got a measly 6-8 pieces from the two trees :-( all the davao fruits (durian, mangosteen, rambutan, suha and lanzones) love a prolonged dry season early in the year. last year, we had a minor drought, so fruit was spilling all over the sidewalks, and the season lasted way until october.

    of course we’d love to have you visit here. if you’re planning to come next year, make it around the third weeekend of august so you can join the kadayawan festival, and i promise a fruit smorgasbord for breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day that you’re here!

    sylvia la torre still performing? wow! she’s a hardy one. must be all that chicken she ate!

  40. RobSTaR, thanks for replying. Zofhia, my makrut lime plant is in a pot and looks very happy. Don’t worry, it will thrive even in a small garden so long as it gets direct sunshine. It’s thrilling watching it grow. When a new branch/leaves come out, the growth is phenomenal, maybe one inch a day!

  41. Hmmm — learning a lot about the secret life of plants here. If the dirty gossip is right and the makrut is a promiscuous plant (read: gigolocious — heheh) — then i’ll be the ‘consentidora’ and pimp it out to the calamansi or the dayap.

    Speaking of which — the local lime plant i have has ambrosial smelling leaves. Never tried cooking with it, though. And it only got so far as to bear teeny-tiny fruit buds. I suspect the birds get to it (funny how they don’t bother with the calamansi).

    MM — have you tried growing ‘miracle fruit/berries’? Synsephalum Dulcificum (?). It’s a kick-a** plant that’s world’s better than splenda.

  42. millet, is THAT why there is no mangosteen in Cebu yet? At this time last year, it was just P15 a kilo, now it is P200! I can’t make jam this year then…boohoo.

  43. suzette,
    unfortunately not…just a self taught cook/gastronomic enthusiast. Been cooking since age 11 and dabbled with experimentations from shows like the frugal gourmet and yan can cook before there was ever food network. As of lately, been semi obsessed with filipino cuisine, and leaching the recipes of my grandmother.

  44. Sorry left a comment on the earlier Makrud lime post, and here it is again:

    Would you like a scent based on this lime? Even a house freshener based on the distinctive aroma.

  45. MM, same thing here. the mangosteen in the fruit stands are just “pang-turista” (that’s what we call off-season fruits here), outrageous prices and all. a friend in Tawi-tawi says they are nowhere to be found in those parts, either. blame it on the La Nina.

    kidapawan city usually has a fruit festival after davao’s kadayawan, but this year, they had to postpone it to October because there were just no fruits to make a festival. if we do have mangosteen by the time of the lechon EB, i will bring you some, MM.

  46. BrianB, i remember my dad’s brut cologne (or was it after-shave?) from long ago. i remember it smelled distinctly of lime.

  47. I bought kaffir lime leaves from this Thai vendor in the Agri Produce Market near Chatuchak. When I told him I was looking for saplings of kaffir lime for planting in Manila for my steady supply of the tom yum goom ingredient, he gave me the fruits. They were yellow green in color and all wrinkled. I vaguely remember him saying that the fruits are not for eating.:)
    Anyway, I’m happy to report that the seeds that I planted when I got back have now sprouted. Can’t wait for them to grow big!

  48. thanks for answering MM!
    Cumin, thanks also.. i try finding good specimen for planting.. last month i saw beautiful saplings in salcedo saturday market.. dunno if they still have its been a while since i went there.. thanks. ^_^

  49. MM, I bought these thin skinned limes in the Butuan market in August, can’t remember the name but they had the most flowery aroma I’ve ever encountered. Maybe you can have someone bring you a sapling from Mindanao or cross-propagate it with your kaffir tree?

  50. Mila,

    The thin skinned limes you got from Butuan would be what is locally called “Biasong”. These are aplenty in Mindanao and are used mainly enhance the taste and aroma of Kilawin dishes. These are very cheap indeed! And yes it is Kaffir Lime.

  51. Hi Dave, thanks for the info! Yes, I bought a kilo of them for P15, and while I didn’t use them for kilawin (although I also bought tabon-tabon along with the biasong), they were a great addition to several dishes I made.

  52. Hello =) Im not certain about this, but somewhere in the internet I’ve read that grafted kaffir lime trees do not bear fruit. But the one grown from seed does. I know it for a fact because we have our own kaffir lime tree at home which I believe is 10 years old. We’ve been having kaffir lime fruit ever since we were children. And most of the fruit are just left there to rot because we don’t use much. Then I found out alot of you are actually interested in it. I’m willing to sell the wrinkly fruit at a very negotiable price; also leaves, and plants (2feet now in height) grown also from seed. You may contact me at 09165607513 or email me rachanee_munar@yahoo.com
    Thanks a lot and glad to help

  53. I wish I could have been there too. I wanna see the fruits! These kaffir limes looks less knobly than what I see in books. Maybe it was a cross polination. Anyway, this inspired me to find a way to induce flowering on my really old plant. Will post once I’m successful. For those looking for plants, try the lung center weekend market. I think they sell the small seedlings at P150-300

  54. OMG! that is a find! for the past few years, the hubby and i have been managing our thai recipes using drief kaffir lime leaves bought from blue elephant in bkk (it’s just not the same). we used to bring in pounds of that stuff until we discovered some kaffir lime plants in farmer’s market cubao (i didn’t realize they grew up to over 5 ft!) they are indeed the key ingredient to most thai dishes. i just recently discovered your site and LOVE it. my husband loves to cook as well and laments the lack of available ingredients locally. your site is a goldmine of information. thank you! i will now run over to market market with the hopes that there are still some kaffir limes left :)

  55. If you’re in Bacolod, you can contact Ms. Evelyne Bautista of Mamabel’s Organic Herbs for a sapling of makrut lime. I got mine from her just this recent Masskara Orchid show.


    good luck!

  56. i think these arent kaffir limes..those are biasong…the visayan lime for kinilaw makruts have wrinkled skin and rounder compared to the limes shown here.

  57. Hi MM

    Aplologies for bumping this thread – just wanted to let people know that we picked up small kaffir lime plants at FTI market this a.m. They are about 1.5 – 2 feet high and were Php200-00 each which seemd like a very good price. Hopefully we can nurture them in pots and use fresh leaves for a long time to come! Not sure how scuccessful we / they will be with producing fruit. I guess if we talk nicely to them…..

  58. adam, thanks for that… it’s always good to hear when “hard-to-find” ingredients are available and where… we have several kaffir or makrut lime plants in our yard, but never got any fruit!

  59. I just attended a thai cooking class here in chang mai, glad to know i could find kaffir lime leaves easily, i remember Rustan’s in Shangrila was selling them for a ridiculous price of Php 50.00 for like ten pieces of leaves.

    On another note, is galangal easily found in local market/groceries? Kaffir, Galangal and lemongrass is the holy trinity of most thai soups and curries.

  60. , stir fry 1 bulb of garlic,thin beef strips/or large shrimps, red bell peper, onions
    *use SCISSORS to cut KAFFIR LIME LEAVES [about 5-7 leaves,into THIN STRIPS to maximize flavor]; ADD lemon grass [about 3, bruised/pounded] , pour coconut milk..Simmer 5 minutes

    1. PINOY VERSION – add BAGOONG to UR specific taste, patis , squeeze 1 CALAMANSI^ ,
    SIMMER……. add chilli pepper to taste!!
    2. INDONESIAN – INSTEAD OF BAGOONG, add peanut butter[ a teaspoon], more chilli peppers!!
    3. MALAYSIAN – more of KAFFIR LIME LEAVES, a Teaspoon of SUGAR..
    4. INDIAN – Add 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder, add more to taste……….

    *our VERSION? – mix them, 2 or 3 at a time, to get ur own taste, because ultimately ur OWN TASTE will decide

    *VEGGIE ADD-ONs[last minute finale`]: eggplant, broccoli, green bell peppers, lt. green long peppers, green onions & saffron for design :)




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