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.

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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