What is Lime water? Nam Pboon Sai

Down on the Farm Nam Pboon Sai

Limewater is the secret ingredient in Thai cooking that firms up soft fruit for long cooking and makes crispy batter even crisper.

But you know me I couldn’t just leave it there…

When I wrote my post last week on Red Bananas I found out that all bananas that looked red were in fact NOT red bananas but bananas that had been cooked in Lime Water to turn them red… The plot thickens… I hope this doesn’t bore you but I just like to know I will say that when I was telling my son his eyes glazed over and he did say, mum, I really am not interested… But indulge me because I am…

Let’s start with the raw ingredients in making limewater (Nam Pboon Sai). Slaked lime (lime + water = Ca(OH)2 ) or calcium hydroxide is traditionally made with burning shells at high heat and adding the burned shells to water. The water that you get is limewater. In  Thailand, the red lime paste is quite common because the paste is also used in making paan.

What is paan?

The chewing of the product is part of the culture of Thailand. Cultivation of areca nut palm and betel leaves is common in rural areas and is a  traditional cash crop, and the utensils used for preparation are often treasured.

Now, many young people have given up the habit, especially in urban areas, but many, especially older people, still keep to the tradition.

These pictures show the fruit, the chewing tobacco, bits of wood and betel leaves and other bits and pieces which go into rolling up these cigarette shaped smokes.

Although actually illegal now a blind eye is turned in most cases it is generally the older people like my son’s partners mum who continue this tradition …You can tell as the teeth and lips are stained bright red…

Where does my red Lime powder fit in well it is sold here and apparently some of the powder is rubbed under the top gum of the mouth…I was warned( not) that I had any intention of doing that …To be careful it may burn!!!!!!!!

I was also getting a lot of surprised looks and smiles which translated I think meant what is this lady doing buying that… just as well I had Tik with me to translate that I wasn’t intending to smoke or rub it under my gums but cook…They still looked slightly bemused but I am used to that now.

Just in case you missed the post which led to this one here is the link:

Red Bananas (2)


I just wanted to know and see what made this Banana dessert red…..

To make red lime, powdered turmeric is added to the mixture. Instead of turning yellow like turmeric, this pasty mixture turns bright red. Nam Pboon Sai or limewater is made when more water is added to the mixture. When the lime settles, the clear, pinkish water above is used in cooking.

Limewater is used in Thai cooking to keep fruit used in long cooking like banana in syrup or breadfruit in syrup. The fruit is peeled and cut and let soak in the lime water.

The grandmother here stores her red lime paste in a jar filled with water. The heavier lime sinks to the bottom while the clear limewater floats above.  When she needs the limewater, it’s ready. She would pour the clear pinkish water out from the jar. She just tops up the limewater by adding more water to the jar. There is also no need to refrigerate limewater or lime paste.

Just a word of warning…

The powder I bought was available in red or white but apparently also comes as a red paste. If you get pickling lime from hardware stores, which often have canning materials available, make sure you get the food grade quality. The lime building material may contain a metal such as lead.

This is where I began to get quite scared as I know that there are some who just mix whatever they have to sell with no regard for the consequences.

The bananas in this desert look bright and shiny and sweet but are not as sweet as they look… I have found a recipe and now need to find the right bananas…So that is for another day…

In the meantime on my travels looking for this red powder/paste, I also found… Some lovely squash…I hadn’t seen this variety before, Some large sweet radish which my plan was to pickle but hubby loves radish as it is raw and ate all except for the one pictured.

My red lime paste for my banana dessert and an assortment of foraged mushrooms from down on the farm which made a lovely soup for which I will have to get the recipe from my daughter in law. I have watched her make it and lots of herbs go into it with the mushrooms and it is very tasty… Don’t those whitish ones look just like flowers so pretty.

I hope you have enjoyed this little culture trip that gives you some insight into my life here…

Always interesting and I am always learning something new…If you have enjoyed it and I haven’t bored you then please share on Pinterest or your favourite media xxx

Connect to Carol( Moi)

Blog: https://blondieaka.wordpress.com/



Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/caroltaylor56/pins/

Thank you so much for reading this I hope you have a lovely week and not long now to the weekend …xxx



10 thoughts on “What is Lime water? Nam Pboon Sai

  1. thebookwormdrinketh

    Well, this definitely sounds odd! Ha ha! I’m glad you were the one to test the lime powers out and not me!
    I live the descriptions of the looks the sellers were giving you! 😂😂 They were probably thinking “there’s no way this lady knows what she’s doing”.. Well, you sure showed them! 😀💖

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Retired No One Told Me!… It’s all about the Flavour… | Retired? No one told me!

  3. susieshy45

    I enjoyed this post. Many of the things you wrote about are familiar to me but it was surprising that Thai culture is so similar to my own. But yet different too- I don’t think we would color our bananas red yet, or I don’t know it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carol Post author

      Thank you, Susie and yes I think there are very many similarities in many Asian cultures …The colouring is only for a dessert so maybe they do I don’t know …But pleased you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. merrildsmith

    Interesting, Carol! You may know this, but limewater (from limestone) or lye from wood ash has been used traditionally in Mexico/Central America to treat corn (maize). The process is called nixtamalization, and it adds nutrients to the corn.

    Liked by 2 people


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