Saturday, October 01, 2011

VeganMoFo: Cookin' with Kokum

Happy VeganMoFo Everyone!
I'm kicking off my theme of "31 Spices":
a different spice every day for the month of October!
Huzzah!

Today's spice* is kokum!
What the heck is kokum anyway? I didn't know either, so don't feel bad. It's a super sour, sticky, dark-as-night, citrusy, mouth-puckering and also quite tasty little affair. Also (according to Wikipedia) it's a relative of my mangosteen plant. No wonder I liked it! The first thing you notice, when you go to taste a piece of dried kokum, is the smell. It's very floral, but in a pretty unfamiliar way. The smell is so complex and flowery, that I was totally caught off guard by how super sour it was once it hit my tongue. What a combo!

(*okay, maybe it's not technically a "SPICE," but cut me some slack -
"ingredients used sparingly for intense flavor" is too long!)

When I was in India earlier this year, I picked up a bunch of really cool cookbooks (thanks Kittee for that idea!!). Before leaving, I looked through the cookbooks for any ingredients I didn't recognize, that I wouldn't be able to find easily at home. This resulted in a suitcase full of Indian spices, including a package of organic kokum.

I think kokum is probably one of the main reasons I picked this theme for MoFo - I was so curious about this stuff! It's just been sitting in my freezer waiting for me, all this time.

It took me a while to actually find the recipe that called for kokum, at which point I was afraid I had gone completely crazy. In the end, there were two recipes to pick from, so I picked Kale Vatanyachi Amti, from this cute little dal & roti book.

I loved this dish! It had dried coconut, grated fresh coconut, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cilantro and more. Definitely something I'll make again (though I'll probably just be cheap and use all dried coconut next time). Even though there were only 4 pieces of kokum in the dal (which means I can make this recipe, many many more times, since I still have a LOT of kokum in the freezer!), I could definitely taste it in the final dish. It was subtle, but very much there, which was quite alluring.

Bonus Spice! As a bonus I also got to use some of this amazing chili powder I brought home from India. Mr Vegan Eats & Treats described this as "pure heat," and I'd have to agree. We both tasted it ahead of time (very cautiously, mind you!) and it really doesn't have much flavor... it just packs some serious heat. The recipe called for one tablespoon, but I was a wimpy-pants and used only 1 tsp, which seemed just fine!


16 comments:

  1. What an odd looking thing!

    I think if I ever went to India I would also bring home a suitcase full of cookbooks and spices!

    Looking forward to see what other spices you have up your sleeve this month. :)

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  2. Looks awesome. I always feel intimated in the kitchen by different spices so props to you for taking on this challenge!

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  3. Wow! That looks really awesome, and the dish sounds delicious. I am really into your theme, and LOVE your Baskin Robbins logo redesign ;-)

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  4. Ooo, neat! It's so cool-looking!

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  5. I have to say I love your theme! I am also a spicephile and love discovering weird new flavorings from around the world.

    On a somewhat related note, I've recently been pouring over your India & other travel posts: highly interesting stuff.

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  6. Interesting! It sounds like it's a little like tamarind? Anyway, I can imagine what your suitcase smelled like after carting all of your spices home, amazing. Yay for Amey's theme, and happy MoFo!

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  7. i'm really dig'n your MoFo theme, Amey and i'm most excited to read along. i have a feeling i'll be learning a lot this month, fo 'sho! never heard of kokum before, it sounds like something i'd enjoy. totally gonna have to keep an eye out for it.

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  8. What a great MoFo theme. I've never heard of kokum & the dish you made with it looks great.

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  9. OK. So now that you've got me coveting kokkum, where do I get some? I'll have to check the Pakistani store near me that has tons of unusual spices. Your theme is going to be so interesting — and potentially expensive! :)

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  10. That's such a fun idea that you bought cookbooks and any necessary spices. That means your trip to India gets to be extended by that much more.

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  11. I need more lentils in my life

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  12. LOVE your logo! I also love the cookbook cover and "chilli" powder packaging. Wouldn't it be a great exhibit to have just packaging?

    AND we also loved the dried lime theme dinner the other night. I'll look forward to seeing it appear on the blog. XO

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  13. I am going to enjoy your theme because so far I haven't heard of either of the first 2 spices!

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  14. I am drooling over that dal! It looks absolutely perfect. The cookbook idea is a really neat idea. It's a damn shame I never go any place exotic.

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  15. Oh my dear, I have the same problem! I pile up and pile up different spices, I should do a similar challenge one of these days. I love the authentic packages from India, I have some as well and they are sooo good!

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