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When making Thai green curry should the fresh lime leaves be torn in to big pieces and then taken out when ready or shredded so that they can be eaten ?

I have found that when I shred them they never quite break down enough to be enjoyable so I am wondering if they are like bay leaves and are only to be used to impart their flavor and not really to be eaten.

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Although both of your questions are related to thai green curry, I believe they should be each their own separate question. –  Jay Jun 15 '12 at 2:15
    
thanks for your observation , I shall make two separate questions. –  scottishpink Jun 15 '12 at 2:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Kaffir Lime Leaves are using in Thai and Indian cooking in two ways:

  1. They may be added whole to a recipe (such as a soup) and behave like bay leaves; diners take them out and don't eat them.
  2. They can be ground fine as part of a spice paste and make the flavoring base for the recipe.

There are a few recipes which use slivered kaffir lime leaves, but they are extremely fibrous and can't really be eaten unless ground down to a paste.

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In Thai recipes, basil is thinly sliced or shredded and works well to integrate nicely with the thick stock of a curry or peanut sauce. However, although (kaffir) lime leaves are frequently shredded finely and used in Tod Mun, typically, lime leaf usage in simmering stocks is more akin to lemongrass and bay leaves than basil (typically I simmer then in the sauce with a tea bag). One tip I have seen repeated that does not apply to those two, however, is to bruise the leaf prior to immersion.

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According to David Thompson's great recipe, kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูด in Thai) are used as a finishing ingredient rather than simmered in the green curry (แกงเขียวหวาน). My experience living in Thailand concurs with this. There are odd occasions when the lime leaves are simmered and they depend on whether the dish is made in bulk or the other ingredients in the dish. E.g. using beef. (Thais don't eat roti with their curry as is suggested by their appearance in that video)

Whether to include them and in what form are entirely up to the chef. Simmered leaves produce an earthier, less pungent flavour throughout the entire curry. A chiffonade of leaves as a finishing ingredient gives the diner some bursts of strong lime flavour along with a textural pleasure. I suggest you try them in separate dishes to see which you prefer.

Personally, I prefer the chiffonade for it's intense flavour and textural contrast.

A little more detail about Kaffir lime leaves for the initiated reader. Kaffir lime leaves are eaten in many forms here in Thailand. These are the different forms I have seen:

  • In soups they are used as a herb in much the same way as bay leaves. Typical example of this is clear tom yum (ต้มยำ).
  • In dry curries they use a leaf chiffonade (i.e. sliced finely lengthwise into long, very thin strips) and added to the dish as a finishing garnish so they retain their pungency giving the dish a large contrast in flavour and texture. Typical examples of this are phad phrik khing (ผัดพริกขิง) and pad panaeng (ผัดพะแนง).
  • On deep fried whole fish and with roasted peanuts they add deep fried kaffir lime leaves (ใบมะกรูดทอด)
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