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.