What on earth is that, you might ask? Good question. That is kokum — a blackish-red fruit that imparts a sour, tamarind-like flavor.
I had never heard of kokum before tasting a delicious crawfish curry at Pondicheri Cafe in Houston. Having recounted that wondrous experience in a previous blog post, it was imperative that I learn more.
I found kokum at Kalyustyan’s, quite possibly the only store in New York that carries it. The package describes it as “black” kokum (thought really, it’s a beautiful dark red color) and further as a “pliable semi-dried, sour, and astringent skin of a mangosteen-like fruit.” Oh my, that clears things up.
I have — spoiler alert — now tried the above kokum in several recipes (all attempts to recreate that delicious Texas curry). Not sure if I am using it correctly, but I take about 6-10 of the pods, and soak them in a small amount of hot water for about a half-hour. Then, I remove from the water, chop up (removing any pits) and pound in a mortar and a pestle.
What I like best about this unusual ingredient (besides the fact that it is unusual) is that it really does give a dish a nice “sour” taste, and it imparts a lovely scarlet color. I need to experiment some more, but so far, I’m a kokum fan. If you can find it — and I realize that’s a big “if” — I’d suggest using it instead of tamarind or perhaps lime.
And don’t be afraid to use a lot of it…next time, I’m doubling my usual amount. Unlike chile peppers, a little does not go a long ways. Leave a comment if you’ve tried it!