Kokum or Ratamba is a traditional souring agent widely used in Maharashtrian cuisine. Botanically named as Garcinia indica this gorgeous looking plum-like fruit belongs to the Mangosteen family. It is widely grown in Konkan, Goa and some parts of Karnataka. The ripe fruit may not be easily accessible to everyone, but it is preserved with or without sugar to make Kokum Syrup (Agal) which is available all year round. The rind of the fruit is dried to preserve, known as Amsul, which is a pantry staple in most Maharashtrian households.
Kokum is known to have remarkable multiple health benefits. It aids digestion and helps to ward off heat strokes, along with many other therapeutic uses. My Mom made us chew 2-3 pieces of Amsul whenever we complained of acidity/heartburn. This age old home remedy works wonders and the tangy, slightly salty Amsul is very addictive too!
Among the variety of Kokum preparations that are made, Kokum or Amsul Saar is my favourite. Kokum Saar is a traditional Maharashtrian drink made using unsweetened Kokum juice. Diluted Kokum juice is warmed with jaggery and then tempered with spices in ghee to make this tangy-sweet and flavourful saar. This quick and easy recipe makes for a refreshingly appetizing and healthy drink, especially during summers. You can preserved unsweetened juice (Aagal) which is easily available at most grocery stores or you can alternatively soak dried Kokum skin (Amsul) in warm water and use the water to make this saar. Traditionally Kokum saar is also eaten with rice but you can serve it as a drink.