Omani Lime

Omani lime, also known as dried lime or Persian lime, is a very unique spice, used abundantly in Arab Gulf countries, Iran and Iraq. It is used to add citrusy sourness to meat and fish dishes.

The limes, the size of key limes, are harvested and sun dried. The drying process of the limes allows for the fermentation of the inner part of the limes, thus creating a complexity of rich sour, sweet, bitter, and fermented umami flavors.

There are two kinds of Omani limes: black and white. In fact, as I’m writing these lines I’m thinking of a great comparison to another unique spice – truffles. Both the limes and the truffles are harvested in a very specific geographical area and are exported to the rest of the world. Both have two varieties – black and white, the black being the stronger in flavor and the white the milder. Both spices are relatively rare, though, while that makes truffles an expensive commodity, Omani limes are cheap.

Omani limes haven’t gained much exposure in the American culinary world, and their use in the U.S is pretty much restricted to the cuisines they originate from. They can be used whole, crushed, or as a powder. When using whole limes, they need to be pierced to let the flavors from inside the lime mix with the food. When crushed, the seeds have to be removed before adding the lime to the dish, as the seeds are very bitter.

As much as I love Omani limes, they are definitely an acquired taste. You either love them or hate them. I grew up with them, as my father is from Iran, and we use them in many delicious Persian dishes such as Khoresh Sabzi, Persian style stuffed cabbage, Tas Kabab, and many more.

Interested in trying this unique ingredient? You may find it online or in Middle Eastern stores. Do not be overwhelmed by the amount of limes in the bag. First of all, since they are dried, they can last years in your spice cabinet without going bad. Second, for one dish you will probably need 3-4 limes for a pronounced flavor. Third, Omani limes are cheap. If you decide you do not like them, at least they didn’t cost much.

Khoresh Sabzi

Khoresh Sabzi, which means fresh herb stew in Persian, is one of the staple dishes in Persian cuisine. You will probably find this dish in every Persian restaurant. The unique flavor of this wonderful dish comes from the large amount of various greens and Omani lime which is a prevalent ingredient in Persian cuisine. Omani lime, also known as dried lime, can be found in Middle Eastern stores and online.

Khoresh sabzi represents the kind of food I consider perfect in every way. Besides the fact that it reminds me of my childhood and my father’s side of our family, it is delicious with very rich and unique flavors, and is satisfying in a way that only slow cooking food can satisfy. It is also super healthy and guilt free, so you can enjoy it anytime, even when on a diet.

Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 tbs oil
2 lb beef shank or chuck roast, or boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 cups water or broth
1 cup red kidney beans, soaked in water for 5 hours
5 Omani (dried) limes, crushed coarsely and seeded
½ tsp ground turmeric
Salt, Black pepper
4 cups parsley finely chopped
4 cups cilantro finely chopped
2 cups scallions finely chopped
2 cups leek (green part), chopped
1 cup celery leaves and stem chopped
1 cup dill finely chopped
Juice from one lemon (optional)

Preparation:
Place the beans in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook according to instructions until the beans are barely soft. When cooked, drain the water and set the beans aside.

Heat 3 tbs oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden. Add the meat and brown it for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the broth or water, the limes, the beans, turmeric, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes over medium heat.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining 3 tbs oil over medium heat, and sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. The greens should be wilted but still retain their bright green color. Add the greens to the pot with the meat. If you like the khoresh to have a pronounced sour tone, add the lemon juice, as well .

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 30 – 40 minutes longer, until the beans and the meat are cooked and are tender.

Serve in a soup bowl, together with white basmati rice.