Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bhirinda Kadi(Kokum Soup) without Coconut Milk - Sirsi Style

I was in Sirsi on April 10. I was just back after witnessing jaggery making at Dr Arun Isloor's Sahyadri Greens, and overnight stay at Sathwik Homestay in Devanalli. Standing in front of their majestic ancestral home in Rayarpet, I was talking to the Isloor brothers Dr Krishna, Dr Arun and Shridhar about the awesome Bhirinda Kadi that they make in Sirsi, and also told them the story about where and when I tasted such a soup.

Shaila, Dr Arun Isloor's sister hosted me lunch at her home. As I gorged on the pathrode and relished tasty veg biryani, she asked me "Would you like to taste Bhirinda Kadi Rajani maam?"

I said I would certainly like to have it, and asked her if it is authentic Sirsi style Kokum Soup. She said she didn't know the origin of that soup, but she follows the age old recipe passed on from her mother! I took a sip of the soup and that taste took me back in time to 1967 May!


A wedding was in progress at Mahaganapathi Temple Rayarpet, Sirsi. Sunitha Isloor, my brother in Law Dr Suresh D Isloor's youngest sister was marrying Mohan Narayan Prabhu from Honnavar. Though it was a simple wedding, for me it was special, because I was witnessing a GSB wedding in typical North Kanara style for the first time. More so, when the snacks and feast consisted of some exotic items. Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup was one, and I remember greedily imbibing at least 4 glasses of that soup that afternoon! I don't know what all ingredients went into that soup, but it was sweet and sour, loaded with flavour! 

I had the chance to taste exactly the same Bhirinda Kadi after 49 years at Shaila's home, and the first thing I asked her in typical stereotype foodie style was "Recipe please!"

Shaila smiled, and she told me in one breath about how to make it, without being able to give exact measurements of ingredients. She also told me "You know how to come out with the right formula, don't you?"

I nodded my head and next thing Shaila did was disappear and reappear after 2 minutes with a carry bag full of fresh and ripe Kokum fruit from her garden! I was overjoyed and thanked her again and again before bidding farewell to her, her husband Ramachandra and her parents.

After reaching Mangaluru late in the night that day, I chucked the carry bag containing the kokum fruit into the fridge and forgot about it!

Bhirinda as they call in Konkani, Bhirunda/Murugala Hannu in Kannada, Punarpuli in Tulu and Kokum/Garcinia Indica in English is a wonderful tropical fruit that is supposed to be a natural cooler full of Vitamin C is a forest plant cultivated in farms and gardens mostly in South India is found in abundance in the West Coast and the interior forest areas of Konkan, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka is densely populated with kokum plants. There are many cottage industries producing Kokum pulp and extract which is used widely in South Indian cuisine. Kokum Juice, Kokum Kadi, Sol Kadi are common uses, while dried skin of Kokum is used as a sour agent in seafood and nonveg preparations. I have grown eating the fresh Kokum and its by-products. During our younger days, we used to visit our aunt's place Rayee near Bantwal where we used to pluck kokum from the huge plant behind their home in a neighbour's property. The ripe fruit is sweet and sour, and its seeds coated with whitish pink pulp are normally gulped as it is, since they discharge a yellow sticky resin which coats the teeth yellow. Even while making juices and soups, seeds along with the core are soaked in water, pulp extracted and seeds are discarded. The taste of cold soup with fresh kokum is unique, compared to the soup obtained from dried skin.

Summer heat is scorching day by day, and the other day I was feeling too exhausted and dehydrated. I asked Meena about the Kokum I had kept in the fridge, and she had a surprise for me! She had mashed the skin of 5-6 kokums to make juice and that pulp was ready in the fridge! I thanked her for making my job easy, started quick work, and after 10 minutes, awesome Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup was ready and all we did was saying cheers, and drinking the soup nonstop. Within 1 hour, the level of soup came down by 50% and the vessel nestled in the fridge. We consumed one glass each today and felt the difference! Chilled kokum soup has its own refreshing charm!

So that's my story and I must say the Bhirinda Kadi or Kokum Soup made following Shaila's recipe was a super hit and the soup tasted exactly like the authentic Sirsi style Bhirinda Kadi. What are you waiting for? It is season for fresh Kokum. Get some and get going! I'm sure, the other ingredients will be always in store with you 24x7x365 and no need to go in search of that.
Ingredients:
Fresh Kokum Fruit - 5-6(Approx. 250 Gms)
Sea Salt - 1 Tsp(or 3/4 Tsp table salt)
Jaggery - 50 Gms(Check for sweetness and adjust accordingly)
Green Chillies - 2-3 chopped
Asafotoeda(Hing) - A pinch(Or 1/4 Tsp powder)
Coconut Oil - 2 Tsp
Water - 1 Liter
Coriander Leaves(Optional) - 2-3 sprigs chopped

Method:
Break the Kokum fruit into halves, remove the core, squeeze out the pulp and discard the seeds.
Chop the peel and grind with little water in the mixer into a smooth pulp.
Powder the jaggery or grind with little water and sea salt in the mixer.
Mix kokum peel pulp, kokum seed pulp, jaggery and salt in water.
Check for sweetness.
Strain through a sieve.
Heat coconut oil, add chopped green chillies and asafotoeda, fry until the chillies turn golden, pour the seasoning over the kokum soup.
Mix thoroughly.

Garnish with optional chopped coriander leaves and serve cold.

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