Searching for Kaffir
A couple of years ago, inspired by some great Thai food that I had at a little strip-mall restaurant called “Long Beach Thai Restaurant” (listed in the Yellow Pages as “Long Beach Restaurant”), I decided to try my hand at Thai cooking. I picked up a terrific cookbook called “Simply Thai Cooking” and decided to make Panang Nuer (Beef Panang), my favorite dish at Long Beach Thai. Made with sliced beef (I used flank steak), red curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, and finely chopped peanuts, this is a spicy, silky, absolutely yummy dish. I found most of the ingredients easily (it seems like the supermarkets here in Southern California are carrying many more Asian ingredients than in the past). One ingredient, however, required a trip to an Asian market – Kaffir lime leaves.
I don’t recall how, but at the time I managed to find an Asian market not far from my home in Torrance. They carried the Kaffir lime leaves, so I picked up a packet of about 5 – 6 leaves. I tried Panang Nuer, and it was a huge success. It was fairly simple to make, and both James and I loved it. Since I only need 1 or 2 of the lime leaves for the recipe, I was able to freeze the remaining leaves after my initial try, and made Panang Nuer several more times after that. Then, I ran out of the Kaffir lime leaves, moved to San Pedro, got busy, and haven’t made Thai food since.
For the last month or so, however, I have been dying to make Panang Nuer. The problem is, I can’t find the Kaffir lime leaves. I bought the red curry paste, coconut milk, and fish sauce at Cost Plus. It will be easy to pick up a flank steak and peanuts at the supermarket. But no luck on the Kaffir. And, in my opinion, Kaffir is essential to this dish – it adds an unmistakable fragrance and flavor without which it just wouldn’t be Panang.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name or exact location of the Asian market that I found Kaffir at two years ago. It might have been on Hawthorne Blvd near Manhattan Beach Blvd (I guess that area would be considered the city of Hawthorne), but I'm just not sure. I've searched the Yellow pages and online and, though I have found a few Asian markets, each specialized in an Asian culture other than Thai (such as Japanese or Korean) and none carried Kaffir. I even stopped at an Asian supermarket in Gardena that I noticed while driving back to work from a meeting yesterday, but again I had no luck.
I am sure that there are many sources for Kaffir lime leaves in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I am limited to how far I can travel for this quest (as well as when I can shop). This Fall is a particularly busy time for me – it is my last semester in grad school prior to receiving my degree (Master in Library and Information Science), and I am doing an internship, working full-time, and working on my ePortfolio (the Masters candidate culminating project, required in my program rather than a thesis). I am gone 8 – 10 hours per day, Monday through Saturday, just between work and the internship. So, I’ve got to either find a source in the Torrance/Carson/San Pedro area, or an online source, or just wait until next year when I have more time.
If anyone out there can recommend a source, I’d love to hear about it!
If you’ve never tried Panang Nuer, I can highly recommend it, and “Simply Thai Cooking” is a great cookbook for those like me with little or no experience in cooking Thai. And if you find yourself in Long Beach, check out Long Beach Thai.
Long Beach Thai (aka Long Beach Restaurant)
3320 E. Anaheim St.
Long Beach, CA 90804
Located between Cherry Ave and Redondo Ave, just west of Redondo.