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