Eight Great Things to do with a Lime

Asian countries have a way with this citrus fruit, and it’s a shame not to share.

1. Make pickled lime soup

Cambodians achieve the extraordinarily complex flavors of this classic soup with pickled limes they put up themselves. (But pickling can be tricky, so you might be better off buying a jar at an Asian market or an online store.) All you’ll need is boiled water, chicken cooked with garlic, salt, sugar, MSG if you like, and a single pickled lime. The limes pack an incredible punch with an amped-up concentration of citrus flavor. Add chopped green onion just before serving.

2. Make limeade

It’s Asia’s answer to lemonade: freshly squeezed lime juice mixed with cane sugar and water, poured over ice and best with a pinch of salt. Limeade was the first thing I consumed on my first trip to Asia a dozen years ago, and it remains the only drink I want on a sweltering day. Prefer a bit of fizz? Mix your lime juice with soda instead of water.

3. Jazz your coconut

Remember Harry Nilsson’s song Coconut? “She put the lime in the coconut, she drank 'em both up.” Nothing says Asian hospitality like the offering of a fresh coconut with a gouge in the top and a straw stuck inside. You know you have a friend if someone offers you a whole coconut straight from the tree. Add a twist of lime and drink it up.

4. Dazzle your papaya

A squirt of lime will forever change your outlook on this fruit. Just a squeeze will do. Using a toothpick, poke a hole into your lime and squirt only what you need. Don’t toss the rest. The toothpick method allows you to save the lime in the fridge for future use.

5. Wash your hands

If you’re serving sticky ribs or peel-and-eat shrimp at your next dinner party, offer your guests a bowl of limewater. The citrus immediately cuts the grease and cleanses the skin. Asian grandmothers have long espoused the wonders of Kaffir lime, in particular, for cleansing skin and scalp, maintaining a youthful look and even refreshing the mind. Older Asians shampooed with Kaffir lime before modern hair and skin-care products arrived at the local market, and they insist on its anti-aging properties.

6. Make an easy seafood sauce

It’s so simple: One part finely ground black pepper, one part salt, 3½ parts fresh lime juice. Stir and serve with boiled shrimp or crab. For sit-down meals, serve each guest an individual sauce dish. If you’re catering a party, put a bowl of this dip beside a tray of chilled shrimp. And thank the Khmers for their ingenuity.

7. Make miang kham

The Burmese and Thais have a wonderful little snack habit. Take a fresh betel leaf (substitute lettuce, spinach, or another sturdy edible green leaf) wrapped around pinches of ingredients such as dried shrimp, shaved coconut, roasted peanuts, chopped hot chiles, diced shallots, diced garlic, diced ginger, or galangal, and tiny wedges of fresh lime (very important: keep the peel on). Then dip the whole package into a fragrant sauce. Recipes for the sauce vary, but my favorites rely heavily on the sweet-savory taste of tamarind juice, fish sauce, or shrimp paste and sesame seeds. Pop the leaf into your mouth for an incredible flavor bang.

8. Steam a fish

It’s a stock recipe for Southeast Asian fish: Mix lime juice with fish sauce, a little sugar, chopped garlic, and hot chile. Drizzle some of the sauce over a whole, cleaned fish with diagonals cut into the flesh so the flavor can seep inside. Steam and eat, dipping individual bites into the remaining sauce. Simply superb.

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