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Jun 21, 2009 09:04 PM

Kudampuli for Kerala Fish Curry/South Indian Grocery?

Hi all, I'm looking for the dried/smoked fruit called kudampuli/kodampuli/Garcinia cambogia/Fish tamarind, etc. in NYC. You can see photos and a description here:

Any clues? I am going to check out Foods of India on Lex. I know Kalustyan's doesn't have it. Anyone know of a South Indian grocery anywhere? I'm on a mission and will gladly travel to all boroughs. Thanks.

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  1. OK, so for any other maniacs who decide they *need* kudampuli to make their lives fulfilled, an update. Foods of India didn't have it, know what it was, or care, so I went next door to Kalustyan's and after asking some very nice and helpful folks in the back near the refrigerated section and getting laughed at by the nasty woman behind the counter, one of the managers/owners overheard and launched into a tirade. I finally got him to admit that it does exist but according to him, not in the US. He says all the chefs use kokum instead, which I bought (but I'm secretly more determined than ever to find the real deal because the kokum isn't smoked and I think that's the key to getting the real flavor).

    I'm thinking though maybe it is not allowed to be imported because it was used in some weight loss supplements that were banned by the FDA??

    2 Replies
    1. re: hennybee

      I have seen this ingredient around since I get involved in similar searches. My current search, for a lichen used in masalas called "stone flower", kalpasa or bagad phool (among other names) has been futile. but I keep trying. Oaktree road is my next stop.

      Pic below might help a little.

      I have black kokum at home, as well as another garcinai product, asam gelugor, which I dug up at the Southeast Asian Grocery on Mulberry (its sometimes called tamarind skin).

      The spice store on the S. side of 28th Street between Lex and Park has a specialty of sri lankan food and some so. indian too. Its possible they will have it. Alternatively, the last time I looked there was a grocery store that sells keralan stuff way out near the city line on Hillside Ave (Queens) - the same area where Kerala Kitchen was/is. Its not a large store but they might have it.

      By the way, I had a similar experience at the Indian Spice Store last week - a repeat of a number of similar experiences over the years where the people in there were weird, suspicious and rude. I usually dont have a hard time operating in a South Asian environment, and they ought to be able to deal with puttering middle aged americans by now, but they couldnt and I won't be back. (I am sure they wont mind!)

      1. re: jen kalb

        Asam gelugor is not skin but an actual juicy, acidic fruit which is called "tamarind" in Malaysia but actually is not at all closely related to the Indian tamarind, which is a bean.

    2. go to jackson heights, and go to the halal butcher on 73rd st between broadway and 37th ave. there is one next door to alauddin sweet meat (closer to broadway) with a ton of imported fish in the back, dried as well as frozen; they keep them in large freezer cases and you give it to the fellas with the band saws in the back and they do their thing. there is usually a crowd and fish prices are all listed by the pound. the place is amazing. if I pass thru, I will try to get the address but it is on 73rd st, between broadway and 37th, closer towards sunnyside and away from corona (in terms of the side of 73rd st).

      good luck! hope you find what you are looking for, they just might have it! and if not there, there are about 6 other halal butcher shops all clustered around 73rd st ad 37th ave, but that one consistently has a lotta customers.

      9 Replies
      1. re: bigjeff

        Khaamar Baari?

        Khaamar Baari
        37-16 73rd St, Queens, NY 11372

        1. re: squid kun

          must be, seeing as I put that link in! looking back on the OP, it may be an auxiliary product that these fishmongers would carry since it is used in a lot of seafood dishes; good luck!

          1. re: bigjeff

            Thanks to all, I will check out these places out of curiosity although when I made the recipe with kokum I wasn't sure it was worth repeating even with the right ingredient. Not knocking the dish in general as I'm a beginner at Indian cooking and the recipe may be off, but it would need so much tweaking that I may move onto something else. LOL @ Jen and her lichens. Don't you love having a mission??

            I used to live near Oaktree Road--don't miss the opportunity to have lunch there. Good luck!

            1. re: hennybee

              went to those JH places and none of the places had it! this is some interesting stuff! but I am noticing kokum now as an ingredient whenever I go to indian stores now. interesting.

              1. re: bigjeff

                I dug around in all of the bins in each of the major Jackson Hts and Little India groceries looking for my dagad phool and other things. With the exception of the store on 28th with its sri lankan stuff these basically cater to punjabi/bengali populations. I also searched in the Subzi Mandi stores in Parsippany ( somewhat more diverse in their stock) with no luck. finally, last Friday I went down to Oak Tree Road, no luck at any Patel Brothers, Subzi Mandi, Dani at all - as a last stab I went to Bhavani Cash and Carry and struck gold, a nice clean clearly labelled bag of Dagad Phool! The store was bright and clean and clearly caterered to a customer base from S and W of India - it was also notable for its selection of clearly marked regional chillies from the south. I t was also relatively empty - this is a very competitive market and I have the feeling that the locals shop mainly on price and that the rice may be a little pricier at Bhavani (its a chain and also a distributor) than at the other major supermarkets, but I was really glad to find this store

                Didnt look for the fish tamarind at Bhavani, tho I didnt see it at any of the stores I did paw through.. Id still recommend looking at the sri lankan places for this.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  thanks for the intel and your hard work there!

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    now lets see how soon I cook a single dish with my various garcinias - the white AND black kokum, the similar "tamarind skin" (asam gelugor) also searched out diligently, not to mention the dagad phool.

                    These searches do take on a life of their own.

                  2. re: jen kalb

                    I know all too well about searching high and low for ingredients (sometimes long after I've lost interest in the original dish! lol) but for those of us without cars, I thought I'd mention that 3 months later, I happened to come across dagad phool at Patel Bros this afternoon. They didn't used to have it but I guess enough people have asked that they got it in! (It's back in the small alcove in with the packaged spice mixes, etc.)

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Next mission: Real asafoetida, not that diluted compounded crap.

                      Last time I scored the real stuff was in Varanasi. I had to have a pundit friend scope out all the spice shops for the real deal (even in India, there's a lot of fake devil's dung). It took two days and US$100/kg (! that's a ton of loot in India and trust me, that's the local rate !) to score some primo stuff from Afghanistan. But oh man, you can smell this dung from two blocks away. Smells like heaven.

          2. Hello Hennybee,

            Although it has been a while since you posted your request, you may still be interested in finding a source for kudampuli in the NY area.

            Jen Kalb below mentions a store on the southside of 28th street. They used to carry it a few years ago (under the Sinhalese name of 'goraka') but no longer. In their Sri Lankan food section only a goraka jam is now sold, one that I have not tried and cannot vouch for.

            However, kudampuli (goraka) can be found in a Sri Lankan grocery on Staten Island. The store is located at 320 Victory Blvd. and is associated with the New Asha restaurant, which is right next door. If you go, plan for a meal -- it's quite good. (A little short on ambiance...)

            I am 100% sure you can find it there because I just got some myself tonight!

            6 Replies
            1. re: vigorish

              Thanks very much! I'm in Bay Ridge, so I'm geographically close to SI but without a car it's further than it should be. If I make it out there on a food excursion I will check it out (and then go show it to the guy at Kalustyan's)! Did you make something with it by the way? The recipe I originally wanted it for, which I made with kokum, wasn't a knockout and I don't know that the kudampuli would have saved it.

              1. re: hennybee

                I know this thread hasn't been active for awhile, but I wanted to report that I, as well, was on a frantic quest to find kudampuli. I can confirm that I've found some at the Little India store on the south side of 28th st, near Lexington. It's bagged as 'goraka', the Sri Lankan name, but it's definitely kudampuli. I made some meen vevichathu tonight with it and it's fantastic! I also want to mention that they have wet black kokum there, as well, which can be a good substitute.

                1. re: okmari

                  thats great! what recipe did you use?

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I used a combination of a few I found online, along with what I could remember from when my friend's family (who were from Kerala) would make it. it's not exact, but below is a close approximation of what i did.

                    Roast in a dry pan: 2 tsp mild chili powder (something close to paprika with slightly more spiciness - bought mine at an Indian grocery store), 1 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp fenugreek powder.

                    Combine roasted spices with 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 inch of grated ginger, and enough water to make a paste.

                    Heat 3 tbsp of coconut oil in a wok. Add a pinch of fenugreek seeds and a pinch of black mustard seeds, followed by 2 small diced onions (or shallots), the spice paste, and about 20 curry leaves. Saute until onions are clear and then add 1 diced tomato and a healthy sprinkling of salt.

                    When tomatoes begin breaking down, add your fish (I used about 1.5 lbs of salmon filets, cut into 2-3 inch chunks), kudampuli (I used 8 small pieces, washed and soaked) and just enough water to cover plus 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Simmer for 15 minutes or so and serve with crispy paratha. If sourness is at a good level, remove the kudampuli pieces.

                    I remember my friend's family washing off, drying out, and reusing the kudampuli, so I think a little will go a long way. I only bought one package, but I think it'll last me for a few months.

                    Here's a picture of my curry!

                    1. re: okmari

                      Yum! That looks fantastic, and I'll try it (with the black kokum for now, then I'll try Little India for kudampuli). The recipe I have is very similar without the coconut milk, and I found it quite bitter and not balanced, I think the coconut milk will fix that. And thanks for the Sri Lankan translation.

                      What is it about complex sour tastes that are so haunting and addictive? I'm the same way with sour long beans and minced pork...

                      1. re: hennybee

                        Hello HennyBee,

                        I think it is time you purchased some goraka (kudampuli)! Go now!

                        Here is one of my favorite recipes using goraka, which taken from the cookbook, Ceylan Cookery, by Chandra Dissanayake. Although this is the greatest cookbook of all time (many reasons for this, including an amazing bio on the book jacket, a discussion of the scientifically optimal way of organizing the Sri Lankan kitchen and a recipe for Chicken Fried Steak in the section entitled 'Western Dishes' [she spent time in Nebraska on a Fulbright for Home Economics]), it is unavailable in the US. A friend brought a copy back from Sri Lanka many years ago.

                        Everyone loves this dish and it is usually better the second day. I can post more recipes if you like.

                        Ambul Thial

                        1) The night before cooking the dish place 6 pieces of goraka in a few ounces of water. The next day reserve the water and grind each piece of goraka with mortar and pestle as finely as you can.

                        2) cut 1 lb of tuna into serving size pieces (maybe eight?)

                        3) Chop fine:

                        10 red pearl onions (Bombay onions)
                        8 cloves garlic

                        4) Grind into powder:

                        1/2 tsp cumin
                        1/2 tsp fennel
                        1 tsp coriander,

                        then add

                        2 tsp fenugreek
                        4 tsp chilli powder

                        and roast until the red chilli powder darkens. Do not burn! (A minute on medium heat tossing constantly is good)

                        5) Mix the following ingredients with the roasted curry powder:

                        1 tsp pepper (ground fine)
                        1 thin slice ginger (ground fine)
                        1 clove
                        1 cardamom
                        3 tsp salt
                        1 stick cinnamon

                        6) Place the fish in a large bowl, add all ingredients listed above and mix until the fish is coated with the spices. Add all the curry leaves on two sprigs to the mixture.

                        7) Put the fish and spice mixture in a skillet. Add 10 ozs water (using the reserved goraka water) to the skillet and set the burner to low (not simmer).

                        8) Flip the fish pieces from time to time. As the dish cooks the ingredients form a 'paste' that sticks to the fish as the water evaporates. The dish is done when the water has completely evaporated from the bottom of the skillet (the paste caked on the fish is still moist, however), which takes about three hours.