Strong and Sour: Calamansi Lemons

published Aug 30, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Check out these tiny little lemons! Don’t be fooled by their sweet appearance, though. These diminutive citrus fruits are packing a seriously sour punch.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

I spotted these particular calamansi lemons at the Mountain View Farmers Market south of San Francisco. At first, I thought they were mandarin oranges or perhaps kumquats. They have the same shape and look as mandarin oranges, but with the coloring and thin skin of a kumquat.

It turns out that I wasn’t that far off base. Calamansi citrus are actually a very old cross between mandarin oranges and kumquats. The fruit is grown throughout Southeast Asia, primarily in the Philippines and Malaysia, but cultivation has gradually spread to other warm growing regions – like California! The growers at my farmers market called them lemons, but you might also find them referred to as Calamansi limes, Chinese oranges, kalamansi, golden limes, or even Panama oranges.

Calamansi is one of those ingredients that makes Filipino and Malaysian dishes taste truly authentic. The flavor is something like a sour orange or a slightly sweeter lime, and it has a fragrance to match. It gets added to sambals and laksas, squeezed over freshly-steamed fish, or even sipped on its own as a refreshing drink.

If you get your hands on some calamansi, try out these recipes:

Calamansi Juice from Rasa Malaysia
Candied Calamansi Limes from Use Real Butter
Grilled Tilapia with Calamansi and Fish Sauce from Jun-Blog

Do you know and love calamansi citrus? How do you use it?

Related: Soda + Spirit + Citrus: 5 Refreshingly Simple Sippers