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Kokam, Kokum or Fish Tamarind is a spice known only in India. Kokam is a the dried rind of the kokam fruit, with a purple colour, looking like a shrivelled plum. When fresh it looks like a small, deep purple plum. Generally, the dried rind from kokam comes in small, leathery pieces of about 3 cm (1 inch) long.

Kokam smells mildly fruity with hints of tannin and balsam. Kokam's flavour is sharp, acidic and astringent with some saltiness from the drying process, but overall it is a mouth-freshening sweetness that you might get from other dried fruits. Kokam also adds a nice purple colour to dishes. Kokam is used particularly in fish or vegetarian dishes.

When to use kokam: if in recipe or instead of other souring agents like amchur or tamarind. Firstly, you soak them in a little water, then you use the liquid like lemon juice. Or you could try infusing tomato paste with some pieces of kokam then holding back on the tamarind. Remove the kokam after infusing.

Substitute: if no kokam, add tamarind, amchur, lemon juice or vinegar.

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN: 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN: 9781465435989.