My friend Sani and I tried an experiment in honor of the ongoing Soda Free Sundays campaign. We decided to choose two Thai herbs and see whether we could turn them into delicious, unsweetened soda.
Contestant #1: Pandanus leaf, otherwise known as bai toey. It’s a long, thin leaf. If you’ve eaten Thai food at Pok Pok in Portland, it’s what they use to make their water taste like toasted rice. Their water is delicious. Nomination: bai toey! Sani and I were both pretty sure bai toey would work.
Contestant #2: Kaffir lime leaf, otherwise known as bai makroot. It’s what you see finely chopped and tossed into panang curry or tom yam soups or things like that. It’s one of my favorite flavors, but not typically something you’d think of for a beverage. Sani and I were both skeptical, but it was my idea and she was polite enough not to tell me she was skeptical.
The pandanus/bai toy was frozen, not fresh, because apparently it’s hard to find fresh here. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work. The beverage tasted like wet leaves.
The kaffir lime leaf/bai makroot, on the other hand, made amazingly delicious soda! Subtle and refreshing. Would go great with Thai food or as something to bring along on a picnic.
These ingredients aren’t local. But! You can actually grow your own bai makroot/kaffir lime leaf tree. I’d love to pick these fresh any time I want. However, I’m not so sure about growing pandanus.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Soda (Unsweetened)
- 5-6 pairs of kaffir lime leaves (they’re often attached)
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup of seltzer/club soda/soda water (unsweetened)
1. Tear up the lime leaves. Throw them in a pot with the water. Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until it smells strong.
2. Cool the liquid, with the leaves still in it. You can stick it in the freezer or add ice to it or whatever works for you.
3. Add it to two glasses, with the seltzer, in a ratio of about two cups of the leaf water to one cup of seltzer. One strange thing we noticed: If you add the leaf water first, and then pour in the soda, you’ll see that the leaf water has a faint green color that disappears instantly when it touches soda. You can add back in a few leaf bits for color and charm.