Dried limes, whether brown or black are a very popular ingredient throughout the Middle East and have various names, depending on where you are or where the limes are from. Interestingly, all the Arabic names refer to them as lemons, the word limoo, as I understand it, growing up, is lemon. But of course they are limes.
The dried limes themselves are said to have originated in Oman, where they are called loomi. Outside of Oman, they are known as limoo amani (as in Omani lemons), Noomi Basra (roughly means lemons from Basra, a town in Iraq).
What are Limoo Amani or Dried Limes?
Basically, they are limes that have been soaked in brine, then left out to dry in the hot sun, and they come in two shades, as you can see in the images here: brown and black. The black limes are just dried a little longer. But as you can see from the image, both the brown and black limes are black on the inside.
How to Use Dried Limes?
These dried limes are salty, sour, a little musky and with just a hint of bitter. And they are used to impart those notes to
- sauces and
- rice dishes
- They also add a wonderful dimension to spice mixes, like the advieh spice mix we have here.
- And they make great tea (above)
When I use them in a stew, all I do is make an incision or two with a small knife and then I drop the lime in the stew. It’ll get hydrated while at the same time, it will impart a wonderfully deep tartness and tang to the dish.
If you have a good spice grinder, you could also grind it into a powder as you see above, after removing the seeds which are bitter. Then all you need to do is get a pinch and sprinkle it over whatever recipe you are cooking. This is great sprinkled on salads, especially any of our Middle Eastern ones, like Salad Shirazi:
You can also make tea from dried limes. In fact, one of my readers provided me with a cocktail based on limoo tea. I’ll post that real soon!
Substitute for Dried Limes
Any ingredient that gives you a tart flavour like fresh lemon or lime juice and sumac would make a suitable substitute, even if missing the full flavour spectrum.
Where to buy Dried Limes
As long as you have access to Middle Eastern stores, you ought to find them. I live on the south coast of England, and the only way I get many “exotic” ingredients is by buying them online. One of my favourite stores in the UK is SousChef.co.uk.