Tag Archives: curries

Kokum, Konkan’s wonder fruit

Come summer and I crave a glass of refreshing tangy kokum sherbet. And of course, no Malwani or Goan meal is complete without a glass of sol kadi for me, made from kokum, coconut milk, ginger, et al.

Kokum cooler

Kokum is an amazing purplish red sweet and salty fruit, also called garcinia. It is a popular souring agent in the Konkan region and I cannot do without it in my kitchen.  I love the fact that it is multi-faceted and lends itself to so many dishes. But yes, it should be fresh. The flavours are completely different when it is not fresh and appears dehydrated.

Whole dried kokum can be used in curries. I cannot imagine my fish or prawns curry without the tangy kokum or even my dry bhindi or ladies fingers, for that matter.

But I must confess, I learnt about kokum fairly late in life, when I got married to a Goan. In Kolkata, where I grew up, we had never heard of kokum, let alone use it. For us, tamarind was always the souring agent.

Halwa-Fish-Curry

In all curries where coconut milk is added, I tend to use kokum. I once sampled the most unusual kokum coconut chutney at Park Hyatt Goa. The taste still lingers in my mouth. It was exceedingly well-made.

It is called Bhinda in the Konkan region. I am somehow fascinated by the colour of kokum apart from its flavour. People in Kerala use it as well. In Maharashtra, moong dal amti with kokum and goda masala is legendary. It is a must try.

Kokum is used for its unique flavour and peculiar sourness that it gives to the dishes and hence used in Konkan Cuisine. A chef once told me an interesting way that kokum is used. Yes, Kokum butter, prepared from seeds is used in confectionery preparations. Some chefs have created unique European dishes using Kokum too.

Karavalli-Food-festival-image

Apart from its utility in the kitchen, kokum, owing to its anti oxidant and anti fungal properties, teats sores, prevents infection, improves digestion, treats constipation, and application of direct Kokum on skin removes all kinds of rashes and allergies.

Although it is available freely in Mumbai too, I still prefer getting my stock of kokum from Goa. It is fresh and flavoursome and I can be sure of the quality. Madgaon market is my favourite place to pick the best kokum.

So try using kokum in your culinary experiments, if you have not already. It is bound to tease your taste buds.

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Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

Alle Belle 1

Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

Dodol

 

I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

Simply Refreshing : Vietnamese Pop Up at Shiro

Vietnamese cuisine is fairly new to India and still relatively lesser known, but fast gaining popularity. Five Star Hotels and stand alone specialty Pan Asian restaurants are the only ones who generally serve this cuisine in metros.

The Vietnamese pop up at Shiro, in Mumbai, led by Chef Vu Dinh Hung from Ho Chi Minh City seemed like the perfect opportunity to step into the restaurant, after a somewhat long gap. Of course Chef Vu had trained the team here headed by Chef Sameer Juvekar and left. Yet, the entire meal served to us was authenticity personified.

This simple but flavourful cuisine, has borrowed a lot from China, Thailand and of course  has an obvious French influence too. But all to its advantage.

We began our meal with the customary summer salad rolls  comprising  vegetables, bún (rice vermicelli), & other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese bánh tráng (rice paper). These truly were a refreshing start as it was light and easy on the stomach. The burst of crunchy veggies in the rolls felt good to bite into. Ours were the prawns and crabstick ones, but Vegetarians have an exciting Tofu option.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls - 07

Cha gio, or the spring rolls with vegetables came next. Unlike the Chinese spring rolls, these are lighter and easier to digest. One has to wrap them in a lettuce leaf and dip into the sauce to relish them in the traditional way. These surpassed our expectations. Absolutely extraordinary flavours and gave a boost to our palate.

No Vietnamese meal is complete without Pho and I must confess, I was secretly awaiting its arrival. Pho is a popular noodle soup, made with rice noodle, herbs, broth and chicken. It is filling, yet, not a complete meal. In fact it is quite light and refreshing. The dash of chilies and the paste added the right amount of zing to it and perked our taste buds beyond compare.

Olive oil, lots of tomatoes, Italian basil, pistachios, all have a large presence in Hung’s dishes, we discovered. Along with these, he mixes Western foods with Asian ingredients in his signature dishes to give them a contemporary twist. I loved that as he obviously does a perfect job of it.

The BBQ eggplant took us completely by surprise. I was reluctant to try it but with its unique marinade and copious amounts of peanuts and grilled to perfection, it turned out to be one of my favourites that evening. As in our baigan bharta, the eggplant flavour was masked, and yet distinctly enhanced.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry - 06

A mildly flavoured aromatic chicken and potato curry with steamed sticky rice followed. It was strongly reminiscent of the Thai curry minus the galangal and lemon grass of course.Vietnamese curries are made with freshly ground spices as opposed to pastes. Totally my comfort food. Relished it. Could have been a bit more spicy though.

Although each dish we were served, was savoured by us, but they had saved the best for the last. The glass noodles had an eclectic flavour. The myriad textures- crunchy, creamy, teased our palates and made us crave for more. It was a compete meal in itself, although Chef Juvekar, generously sent us some clay pot fish which had subtle saucy flavours and was equally delicious.

The chef’s creativity knows no bounds. The chocolate fondant with figs ( my first ever) was delightful and decadent. What a fabulous combination I thought, it was. The cream and crunch were married perfectly. The molten chocolate filled our mouth and we were satiated beyond words.

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The chef transported us to Vietnam through his culinary journey. Even after a meal comprising so many dishes, we were not uncomfortable. That is the beauty of a Vietnamese meal. The fresh ingredients have a lot to do with this. A memorable meal, I shall always cherish. On till April 26, pop by to experience this unique pop up:)

Rating: 4/5