Nadia, one the first commentators on this blog, is an expert in all things Levant. She told me something the other day that surprised me: Noomi Basra, or dried limes, are rarely (if ever) used in Levant cooking! We use it so freely in Iraqi as well as Arabian Gulf cooking, that I just assumed it was an Arab spice including the Levant. Which makes sense because Iraq is the gateway between the Levant and the Arabian Gulf. Not only do we use noomi basra in various chicken, meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes, we also make a tea from it! Both hot tea in the winter, as well as iced tea in the summer.
There is a very important point to consider in noomi basra: where the actual dried lime is an intriguing mixture of smokey tartness, its seeds are exceedingly bitter, and unpleasantly so. So in any recipe not using the lime whole (which would contain the seeds), remove the seeds as you are crushing the lime.
Some people make it for medicinal purposes: it is very rich in vitamin C so it is great for relieving colds and headaches. It also tames bowel irritation. It is extremely warming, and will send heatwaves throughout your body. Note that it is extremely tart (think sour candy tart) and will need sugar to tame the flavor, especially if you are not used to it. This Chai Noomi Basra (شاي نومي بصرة) was a special request by Nadia.
5 noomi basra
4 cups water
sugar to taste
Crush the noomi basra into large chunks using a mortar and pestle.
Remove all the seeds and discard them.
Put the noomi and water in a kettle and bring to a boil.
Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Serve in istikans with sugar according to taste.