Kudampuli-tamarind of Kerala

Kodampuli (scientific name: Garcinia cambogia) also known as Gambooge, Malabar Tamarind, Fish Tamarind etc is an essential ingredient in all the seafood loving kitchens in Central Kerala, the coastal South Indian state. As the name suggests (Puli = sour in Malayalam), the dried fruit is used as a souring agent in Kerala’s famous fish curries and other seafood preparations.

Kudampuli is sometimes substituted by ‘cocum’ which is wrong. Cocum is grown and used in the konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa. the flavor which it enhance also has a significan difference.

Kodampuli is known for its medicinal values in Ayurveda. It helps to promote digestion, and a decoction (kashayam) made out of it is used against Arthritis and some uterine deceases. It is also known to cure ulcers.

The berries once fully ripe, fruits are collected, cut in half, deseeded and are sun-dried for a day. The sun-dried fruit halves are smoked till black, and are rubbed with a mixture of salt and oil before transferring to earthenware pots and tightly sealed. These will stay fresh for years. Before use, wash the pieces under running water quickly to remove any dust accumulated from the drying and smoking process, then soak these for 10 minutes in water. Kodampuli pieces are added along with the water in which it was soaked in to curries and it gives a delicious sour taste that is so unique.

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Pharmacological intervention is considered necessary in overweight and obese patients with a body mass index greater than 27 kg/m2, particularly in the presence of other risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, or hypertension when conservative measures such as behavioral therapy, diet and exercise have not resulted in achieving the desired weight loss. Most cardiovascular risk factors improve even at modest weight reduction because loss of visceral fat leads to disproportionate improvement in risk of developing complications. The National Institute of Health (USA) guidelines recommend that if a chosen medication dies not lead to a 2-kg weight loss in the first month of treatment, the dose should be adjusted or the medication stopped.

Weight-loss without Tears

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA), the active ingredient in the herbal compound Garcinia cambogia, competitively inhibits the extramitochondrial enzyme adenosine triphosphate-citrate (pro-3S)-lyase, which is needed for the conversion of carbohydrate into fat.. As a citrate cleavage enzyme that may play an essential role in de novo lipogenesis inhibition, G cambogia has been shown to lower body weight and reduce fat mass in experimental animals and humans. Since excess carbohydrates cannot be stored, especially if the consumption of carbohydrate is high, this results in a loss of appetite and suppression of hunger and hence reduced food intake and weight loss. One study in mice suggest that chronic administration of HCA promotes lipid oxidation and spares carbohydrate utilization in mice at rest and during running.

The natural souring agent

Kudampuli is widely used in Kerala as a natural souring agent in its typical seafood dishes. It enhance a smokey flavor and a tangy taste to the lip smacking fish curries of all the regioin of the state. It is soaked in water to clean thoroughly before it used as it is dried in open smokey chambers. Washed and then simmer with the curries for giving the flavor and taste. Other tamarind s can also used as substituted for this but the tangy taste which kudampuli gives won’t be resulted.Some of the typical recipes which kodumpuli is used is as given below.

1.Karimeen Curry / Pearl Spot Fish Curry

Karimeen/ Pearl Spot – 1 kg, each cut into half
Raw mangoes (less sour variety) – 3 medium, cut into pieces
Kudampuli – 2 pieces (optional)
Onions – 2 medium,  sliced
Ginger – 2″ piece, chopped
Garlic – 2 chopped
Green chillies – 6 slit
Curry leaves – 4 sprigs
Turmeric powder – 2 tsp
Chilly powder – 3 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Fenugreek/ Uluva/ Methi powder – 1/8 tsp
Water – 2 cups
Thin coconut milk – 2 cups
Thick coconut milk – 1/2 cup
Salt – to taste
Coconut oil – 2 1/2 tbsp


Heat oil in a pan and add onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies and curry leaves.  Saute till the onions turn light brown.  Add the spice powders and fry for few seconds.  Then add the thin coconut milk, water and salt to taste.  Mix well, close the lid and allow it to boil.  Open the lid and add the fish pieces and mangoes.  Cover and cook on a medium flame.  When the fish is done and the oil starts to float on top, reduce the flame and add the thick coconut milk.  Gently twist the pan so that the coconut milk mixes well with the curry.  Switch off the flame before it starts boiling.  Serve it with steamed rice!

2. Mathi(sardines) Mulaku-arachathu

1/2 kg Fresh Sardines
3-4 pieces Kodam Puli(see picture)
Salt-to taste

To Temper,
3 tbsp Coconut oil( a little too much,but you need it 🙂
½ tsp each of Mustard and fenugreek seeds
4 pods of Garlic, cut into juliennes
1” piece Ginger, cut into juliennes
3 Shallots/Ulli, cut into juliennes
2 Green chillies,slit lenghtwise
A tsp Dhania powder
2 tbsp Red Chilly powder
A sprig of Curry leaves

1. Clean and cut the fish into 2 pieces each. Discard the head part of each.
2. Rinse and soak the KodamPuli in half a cup of warm water.Too big ones are to be slit into smaller pieces.
3. Heat coconut oil in a kadai, splutter the mustards and brown the fenugreek seeds.Sauté the shallots, garlic and ginger pieces, green chillies and the curry leaves till the aroma fills the air.Add the dhania and the chilly powder, blend them in oil for just 3 to 5 seconds taking care not to char.At this point the oil should look watery and Bright Red along with the tempered ingredients. add 2 cups of water, immediately.
4. Add the puli as such(no need to extract the pulp) and let it boil.
5. Transfer contents to a flat manchatti/earthern pot and add the fish pieces.Simmer the gravy for a few minutes till the fish pieces turn soft and the oil separates.
6. The curry tastes better if prepared at least 4 hours before serving and the best, the second day. Goes well with hot rose matta rice or kappa puzhukku.