Several months ago I found a South Indian market (Kashmir Garden–interesting name for a market specializing in Tamil and Malayali cooking…) in Northeastern Philadelphia. Among my finds there of unique chile peppers, I also brought home a cured sour fruit that I imagined would be very similar to tamarind. Like tamarind, this fruit is used as a souring agent in cooking preparations, in the well-known Kerala meen kari (fish in red curry sauce) for example.
This fruit goes by many names, but in South India it seems to go by kudampuli most often. Other names are kokkum, garcinia (which is how you can find it on Wikipedia), fish tamarind, Malabar tamarind, Kerala tamarind, etc. It is a small, yellow-green gourd-shaped fruit that is typically cured with salt for preservation. The curing process turns the fruit black. Here are some images of the one I bought:
The smell (and flavor) of the fruit surprised me. It was not as sour as tamarind, and the fruit had kind of a smoky and candied flavor.
Last night I cooked a fish curry with this, generally following directions of a cookbook from the library Flavours of Kerala by Hena Jacob and Salim Pushpanath. There were a few steps that I skipped that might be considered important, most notably I didn’t use the traditional shallow clay vessel to cook this in: the mann chatti (here is a link to a Google image search to give you an idea). I also didn’t have coconut oil on hand, which may add a different level of flavor.
Another key ingredient that may not be completely common place in mainstream markets is curry leaf. I used a small bunch. Here are the ingredients that I used, minus tilapia filets:
Recipe: Kerala-style fish curry – meen kari മീൻ കറി
The above picture has the ingredients and amounts. I used about 9 shallots, 5 cloves of garlic, and an inch piece of ginger. 1/2 tsp of tumeric, and about 2/3 of the curry leaves above.
I later added some paprika for more red color, and salt and water is also added. I used about 1.5 lbs of tilapia filet.
I ate this with rice. It has a beautiful smokiness about it, and was a bit different than I expected. Definitely a keeper.