One of the ingredients of our Thai Green Curry is citrus leaves, currently listed on our packaging as "kaffir lime leaves." Chances are you have likely heard of this ingredient, as it is common to central Thai cuisine—like our Thai Green Curry.
The leaves of the fruit have a distinct, vibrant citrus aroma with a sweet and sour taste, balanced by floral undertones. The lime itself is known for its wrinkled skin, making it look like a western lime that just got out of the jacuzzi.
What you might not know is the problematic history of the word "kaffir” and the derogatory nature.
We didn’t either until we happened on an episode of Splendid Table, in which host Francis Lim’s guest, Padma Lakshmi, addressed the use of "kaffir” lime in one of her early cookbook’s (Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet), sharing that if she knew then what she knows now about the meaning of the word “kaffir”, she would not have used the term.
Of course, this sent alarm bells in our heads because we were unaware of the word’s origins. We immediately began researching and found that "kaffir” is a damaging, legally actionable and highly offensive racial slur in South Africa.
So what is the correct name for this funny looking citrus fruit found throughout Southeast Asia and China? The word for it in Thai is “makrut”. Now that we are aware of this, we are noticing that the use of the word “kaffir” is quickly disappearing.
Thankfully, we found this out just before our new packaging was headed off to the printer!
In the end, we gained a valuable lesson from this experience. Since many foods that we commonly know today carry names with controversial etymologies and pasts, it’s on us to learn about the sometimes ugly history of food, trade, and labor.
As we explore food and the world around us and bring new products to the market, we are committed to remaining curious, considerate and always willing to learn and grow.