Summer is approaching; however, it feels like Summer already in Texas. Amidst the heat, I enjoy watching my Kaffir Lime tree blooming and bearing fruit. Since my husband, Brad, brought this tree home four years ago, she has grown so much. I remembered that I didn't think she would bear fruit. I was happy just to have Kaffir leaves for cooking; Thai people use Kaffir leaves in different kinds of soup and stir-fried dishes. The second year she surprised us by blooming. Yes, I screamed when I saw the blooms and hoped they would turn into fruit. We ended up with 25-30 pieces of fruit not including the ones which were knocked off by the wind.
It was officially my first time cooking with my own homegrown Kaffir Limes. I used some of them for Ong Choy curry, curry paste (kaffir lime zest is one of the ingredients in curry paste) and Kaffir Lime tarts. The intense aroma you get when you incorporate Kaffir Lime in your dish is so distinctive. People have asked me if they can use something else to substitute. My answer is not really; the Kaffir fragrance really cannot be substituted by other spices.
I understand that they aren't easy to find in grocery stores, even in Asian grocery stores. You might be lucky to find the leaves, but the fruit is very rare. Since I've been living here, I saw them once at Whole Foods on Holcombe and Central Market on Westheimer. That is why I started to propagate Kaffir Lime tree myself. I use a jumpstart kit to grow the seeds from ripe Kaffir Limes before I transferred them to a pot. It was amazing how fast they sprouted. The heat pad in the kit really helps to accelerate germination. Next time if you find Kaffir Limes, keep the seeds and try to grow them or start from buying a Kaffir Lime tree like me; so you will be able to enjoy cooking Thai food from your homegrown Kaffir.