Kokam (Garcinia indica)
Kokam is a fruit from the mangosteen family which is used whole or for its rind as a sour spice. It is used in a similar way to tamarind.
Kokam has a sour taste (though is milder than tamarind) with hints of salt and a sweet aftertaste, much like dried fruit.
Kokam has a fruit-like balsamic scent.
Whereas tamarind is used as a souring spice in other parts of India, kokam performs the same role in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. The dried fruit or rinds are usually soaked in water and the liquid is used to cook lentils and vegetables giving dishes a pink/purple colour. Kokam saar is an appetizer or cooling accompaniment to curries and is made from boiling kokam in water, straining the liquid and then adding ginger, onion, chilli, cumin and coriander. It is also used to make drinks, confectionary, butter and vegetarian ghee. Kokam loves eggplant, beans, fish, lentils, potatoes and squash and pairs with most Indian spices including cardamom, chilli, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger and turmeric.
Kokam fruit come from evergreen trees that are members of the mangosteen family. The dark purple, sticky, plum-sized fruit are harvested in April/May. The fruit are sun dried whole or as just the rinds.
Kokam trees are native to rainforests in the Western Ghats area of India, running from Mumbai to Cochin. The spice has recently gained popularity in the US, Middle East and Australia.
Soaked kokam has been said to help relieve stomach aches and colds. It is used in several medicines and cosmetics. Oil extracted from kokam is used as a foot massage.
Facts about Kokam
Another variety of kokam, Garcinia cambogia, is used by Malwani cooks. The fruit contains an acid that stops the body from converting carbohydrates to fat.
Kokam is sometimes sold as black mangosteen.
Commonly Asked Questions
What other ingredients could I used instead of kokam?
Kokam is sold whole or in a paste format in many Indian grocers. The deeper the skin colour, the better the flavour.
If a recipe calls for kokam you can substitute one teaspoon of tamarind paste for each piece of kokam.