Nov 26, 2017

Kokum — All about Goa’s oldest new superfood

What about this Konkan native has finally caught the world's eye?

Beyond the Goa you see today, lies a land that has been here for close to 150 million years. The Western Ghats, one of the top 8 world bio-diversity hotspots, have over time, provided everything for societies and cultures to flourish along the magnificent west coast of India. As one can imagine, the mysteries of this ancient bio-region are still being discovered and under-stood today. With the mountain range running through the state of Goa, the tropical paradise is intrinsically connected to its natural systems. Nowhere is this influence as evident as in Goa’s food and culinary culture.

One of Konkan cuisines lesser-known, but more traditional ingredients is Kokum, more commonly known as the Malabar Tamarind, or Garcinia Indica for the botanically inclined. Being a native species of the region, this humble evergreen plant feels completely at home on the hilly slopes, farms, stream banks and secondary forests that surround human settlements, across the state. And while local most tastebuds are accustomed to its flavour, the native superfood is fast catching the eye of the international market.

The perfect cure for ailing bodies and hungry souls

Traditionally, the wonders of kokum have been recognised by Ayurveda for centuries. Its sour taste helps in digestion, cleanses tissues and propagates mineral absorption. Astringent properties means it is also used to treat dysentery and other gastro-intestinal disorders. While the famed hokum juice is renowned for cooling and pitta balancing qualities. A decoction of kokum rind is prescribed for treating rheumatism, since it helps in reducing inflammation. Being anti-fungal, it is also used to treat intestinal parasites, while it is also an Ayurvedic prescription for treating ear infections. From a culinary perspective, perhaps you have heard of the Goan specialty called Solkadi — a preparation of kokum and coconut milk — that is usually served as a post-meal beverage to aid in digestion (or simply a moment of flavourful bliss after a hearty meal). Alternatively, it could be served as an accompa-niment to rice and vegetables, which tastes just as good! Though one of the features of this incredible ingredient is its ability to blend into a meal or a dish without claiming much limelight. You would be surprised to hear how many local dishes — from vegetable fry to fish curry — include the modest kokum. In fact, if there was a taste that embodied the cuisine and culture of this region, it would be kokum.

But if indigenous eastern knowledge is not proof enough, re-cent scientific research into the plant has turned up more than enough proof for what we already knew. Results suggest the plant is full of B complex vitamins and Vitamin C, while also a source of magnesium, potassium and manganese. But perhaps the discovery that has turned global attention to kokum, is its content of hydroxy citric acid or HCA — a substance known to contain weight-loss capacities. The rind of the kokum fruit, which goes from small, unripe and green to a deep ripe purple, is very rich in HCA and in fact, what gives it that unique tartness. And if that’s not enough to make you run to the market for some fresh kokum, or at least a chilled glass of solkadi, this surely will. Kokum is brimming with garcinol, which is an anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic agent, so could potentially help restrict the formation of cancers in your body. Research of garcinol has also found it to be neuro-protective, and as such it may help in regulating Alzheimer's Disease. That’s two of the world’s most rampant lifestyle diseases, taken on by the one humble kokum fruit.

By now you’re probably already thinking up ways to make kokum a staple in your diet — and rightly so! Just remember, the next time you eat or consume the fruit in any way, it isn’t just the taste of Konkan food you are getting. You’re getting a taste of the ancient knowledge and power of one of the oldest living entities on our planet, the Western Ghats.

Solkadi: The Konkan delicacy

  • Soak 10-12 kokum rinds in 1/2 cup of water for about half an hour
  • Then squeeze them and add two cups of warm water and two cups of coconut milk
  • Add a dash of salt and temper with mustard seeds, cumin, garlic, asafoetida (Hing) and red chillies
  • - You can also use this recipe for Rasam by simply eliminating the coconut milk
  • - Or replace any recipe that has tamarind in it with kokum, or as it also called, the
    Malabar Tamarind

How does HCA help in burning fat?

  • Inhibits the conversion of carbs in fats
  • Works on the specific enzyme that synthesises fatty acids, and transforms sugars into lipids
  • Essentially slows down fat production

Benefits, at a glance:

  • Digestive Aid
  • High in vitamins B, C, manganese, magnesium and potassium
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic
  • High in free radicals, powerful anti-oxidant

The kokum seed generally contains 23-26% of oil, which remains solid at room temperature owing to its high melting point. This makes it ideal for cosmetic as well as confectionery uses! Kokum butter is a common additive in creams and lotions as its non-greasy qualities make it easily absorbed by skin. In the confectionary industry, the high melting point allows for the creation of perfect chocolate delicacies, especially in warmer climates.