Machi, Fish Curry with Lemons and the 411 on Kokum

One of my 2011 resolutions was to portray more of the foods I grew up on. Just before I proceed, I really wish to take a moment and briefly reflect on the year past. If you told me a year ago about all the doors this blog of mine would open for me, I would have said 'right!'. Most importantly the friendships I made through chatter of food and life are indispensable. You my friends are the best support group any one can wish for and you've been with me, holding my hand, through some tough moments in 2010. If it weren't for you I would end up in an asylum, I know, I am trying to get a rise out of you, or in a much needed countless hours of therapy. I do appreciate you being my in-house shrinks and sound boards or as some would say analysts, and by you, you know who you all are. I like it when we share moments when we are simply happy, I don't want to get too sappy! So on that note, I wrap up just like a quick goodbye and not a drawn out one at the airport, but you all know what is in my heart!

This dish, simply called at our home Machi, which in Marathi, my parents first language, is simply fish, but my friend An at @bakerstreet29 (blog) says although Marathi origin Machi is also used as a general term for fish in India. I have made it many times in the past and it came out identical to my mom's. Today I skipped a step or two and adjusted some measurements and still the dish came out delicious, but not identical. My mom usually uses white fish steaks like seabass or cod for the dish but I love the beef-iness of salmon and visually the salmon steak really appeals to me. There are not really that many bones in it.
Jonathan works near an Indian grocery store so I asked him if during lunch he could run in and grab some Kokum for me to cook with last night. He went in and got what is called black Kokum, same fruit from same tree but hard as a rock. The owner gave Jonathan a tour of the place and showed him all that they have to offer, from saris to spices and Bollywood movies. I am used to a softer, dried fruit consistency and color of deep purple. My friend Pepy @IndonesiaEats, an Indonesian who lives in Canada, wrote an article in Bahasa Indonesia, the National Indonesian language, so I am linking you to her post so you could see her beautiful pictures of the deep purple Kukam I am speaking of. See last photo in this article here and translated to English version here.  I should also note that Pepy uses Kokum as a substitute to some Indonesian ingredients that aren't accessible.
If you are you are unfamiliar with Kokum, I am really excited to introduce to you an ingredient that can be an addition to or be interchangeable with lemon. It has sour, tangy notes that go well with fish. Whether soft purple or black, once you soak it with water and add a touch of sugar you can use is as a sauce for some Indian street foods such as pani puri, batata wara (wada) and such.

Below are photographs of Kokum that Jonathan came home with. I ended up soaking them in warm water and using the flavored water only in my Machi dish. If I had the deep purple soft ones I would have added them directly into the dish without soaking them.

No wonder Kokum is a staple in my mom's pantry for mostly fish dishes and as a condiment. As you read in my previous post here the Bnai Israel Indian Jewish community was first washed ashore at the Konkan coast just south of Bomaby. The Kokum (Garcinia indica), a plant in the Mangosteen Family, is indigenous to the west coast of India and a native to the Konkan and other western coastal regions in India. It also has medicinal properties and known to heal skin rashes and cure allergic reaction to bee stings. You can read about it more here. You can find it at any Indian grocery stores or online.

If you don't already, please follow me on twitter where we talk food and also have a lot of fun. Please also LIKE me on Facebook I will be posting more and more albums like this. Thanks and looking forward to loads of food and fun!! I much appreciate all the twitter discussion ensued around this and my last post.

Notes: If you can't get a hold of Kokum, then use one whole lemon instead of half. Fish masala or curry can be found in any Indian grocery store. If you want to cut back on the heat of the dish use only one jalapeno and core and take out its seeds. Also I skipped adding tomato paste but that also helps with toning down the dish. If you add tomato paste then you have to add more liquid. Curry sauce is enough for at least 4 salmon steaks although I made only two good size ones.

Machi, Fish Curry with Kokum

2-4 Salmon steaks
2 Medium/large tomatoes
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1/ 2 Small bunch cilantro leaves
6-8 garlic cloves
1-2 Jalapenos
2 Tablespoons fish masala/curry
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 Teaspoon ginger powder
1 Small lemon or 1/2 lemon plus 4-6 soft Kokums, lemon skin and pith (white membrane) peeled off
1 Small can, 8 oz, of tomato paste (optional)
1 Teaspoon salt
1-1 1/2 Cups water
Cilantro leaves and lemon wedge for garnishing

1. Whiz tomatoes in food processor till pureed and saute in a deep wide pan with oil on low/medium heat for few minutes.
2. In a food processor add garlic, cilantro and jalapenos and whiz till fine. Add to tomatoes, mix and continue cooking for few more minutes.
3. Slice lemon as you wish and add to dish with fish masala (curry), ginger, cumin turmeric powders and salt. Mix and let cook for few minutes
4. Add liquid of soaked black kokum or soft kokum directly into dish, water and tomato paste (optional), mix and cook for couple more minutes.
5. Rinse and pat dry the fish and add to ready sauce. Cover with a lid and let cook for 20-30 minutes on low/medium heat.
6. Garnish with cilantro and a wedge of lemon and serve with plain basmati rice, chapati or puri on the side


  1. I have never heard of (or seen) Kokum before but they are really neat looking! Great post, Shulie!

  2. Always interesting and educational, Shulie - I learn something new from you all the time! I'm unfamiliar with kokum, but I will look for it at the Indian grocery on my next visit.

  3. Shulie, another awesome post from you! I love how you incorporate the history of the dish! I'm not too familiar with Kokum but I will try to look for it in my local Indian grocery store.
    Fish recipe is the pics too! Thanks for sharing love!

  4. Thx Brian!! Aren't they so photogenic:). Thx Renee, means a lot especially since I know you are not a fish fan:). Thanks Sara, You always have such kind words to share just like Bri and Renee. Love you guys and hope you didn't miss the first paragraph! :)

  5. Very interesting recipe! I enjoy reading about food from your childhood xoxo

  6. Surely, I will try this dish one day. I love using kokum as well!!

    Thanks for linking to my Indonesian article. Promise to let you know once I post the English version.

  7. This fish curry looks awesome although I'll probably substitute the salmon for kingfish. I always use ready made kokum chutney so have never seen it in its raw state and have to agree, it's beautiful!

  8. Thanks Anh! Yup I really enjoy my 2011 resolution of writing about the Indian food I grew up on:). Pepy, my pleasure!! Lick My Spoon, you can substitute with any fish you wish. Funny I never saw Kokum chutney but never looked for it so that might explain it. I will look next tome I am at the Indian grocery store.
    Thank you all for visiting and commenting!!

  9. Another fantastic post that I'm going to try my hands on. I think I can get that at my Indian grocery store. M will be super happy with this dish if I can get it right ;-)

  10. I have long been fascinated by the Indian Jewish community so am always pleased to get a peek into it. And now I want to experience more of the spices and foods, too. This is really a wonderful fish dish!

  11. Thank you Ken and Jamie for dropping by, reading my post and commenting. Really appreciate it my friends!!

  12. You continue to amaze us! I learn something new from every post you write! First time I read about KOKUM.

    This recipe will be super handy soon. I completely go meatless the duration of Lent.

    Thanks, Shulie.

  13. I like your resolution to share more of the foods you grew up with, I think that is a wonderful idea and would be very interesting to see and learn about. I agree with you that the blogging community is really amazing and so full of and kind people. In the short time that I have started blogging I have met a lot of really nice people like yourself :-)

  14. Great recipe! Being of North Indian decent I usually make Tandoori Salmon. I tried this over the weekend for a nice change and it was AWESOME.

    We used salmon filet's instead of steaks, and only cooked it for 20 minutes. It was great, but next time I would cook it for a tad less, maybe 18 minutes.

    I didnt have time to make it out to an Indian grocer so we had do without Kokum, but substituted more lemon as directed and it was still quite tasty. Next time I'll have pickup some Kokum.

  15. Thanks Annapet I am just blown away how this blog opened more seasoned frienships like yours and new friendships with Sylvie and GC/DC. Thc Annapet I am happy you discovered Kokum and would be curious to hear once you make the dish.
    Thanks Sylvie and GC/DC. GC?DC I didn't know you are from Northern India, so that means a lot. I am so happy the dish was successful this past weeken. Phew and yay!! :)Thx for dropping by again and commenting!!

  16. Hi! What you have there is the kokum fruit that is halved and then dried. The kokum that we typically use - especially along the Konkan coast and in Maharashtra - is the rind of the fruit that is dried and salted to preserve it. I just came back from India with some beautiful kokum from Goa. It's more valuable than gold to me! Aayi's Recipes has a post on the entire process of drying kokum, if you're interested. Hope this helps!

  17. Thanks Manisha for dropping by and commenting. I will make sure to look for the drying process post. I knew as much but have never seen the whole dried fruit, my mom only cooked in Maharshrta fashion with the rind that you are describing so beautifully. It sounds first rate quality and I wish I had some:). Found it challenging recently to find it here although have seen it in the past.