As children in Goa, we have all had that fondness for sour foods, usually fruits such as boram, raw guavas, green mangoes and the like.
I remember raiding my mother’s porcelain jars for tamarind and dry kokum, and feigning innocence upon being asked if I was the greedy culprit.
As if there could have been anybody else. I was an only child. Repercussions were few. Self-inflicted, if any. My sensitive teeth would bear the brunt of emptying out an entire jar of tamarind.
As an adult, I was gifted a box of sweet tamarind. Let it be known that none remained by the next hour.
I excused my gluttony with the thought that the first bit of tamarind would be lonely without his buddies (for some reason I decided they were all male). By the last morsel, there was a party in my tummy.
While tamarind was easily accessible (in the jars refilled constantly by my exasperated mother), my other mouth-puckering favourite bimbli, or bilimbi, was within my reach every time I visited a relative with fruit trees. And, boy, did I relish them!
One of my favourite dishes was lady finger and prawn curry soured with bimbli. A recipe that I have shared below. But first, let us explore the medicinal benefits of this wonderful fruit.
Uses and benefits of bimbli
Bilimbi, or Averrhoa bilimbi, has the local name of bimbli in Goa. The tree is about 5 to 10 metres in height and has leaves in the pinnate formation. It is a tropical tree that grows easily in India.
The fruit is oblong-shaped and yellowish-green when ripe. The fruit has culinary uses as it is utilised in preparations of curry and is also eaten as a pickle.
Medicinal advantages of bilimbi include:
A paste of the bilimbi leaves can reduce itching and soothe skin eruptions and swelling.
The flower of the bimbli tree can be soaked in water and consuming the water helps alleviate cough and cold.
Drinking a decoction of the leaves will give relief to rectal inflammation.
The leaf extract of bilimbi may have a positive effect on lowering glucose levels in diabetic patients.
Caution: While the high amount of oxalic acid in the fruit makes it an excellent cleaning and bleaching agent, overconsumption of the fruit or its juice can lead to acute renal failure.
Lady finger and prawn curry with bimbli
Freshly extracted milk of 1 coconut/300 ml of readymade coconut milk
1 medium size red onion
3-4 green chillies
2 tsp of chilli (Kashmiri mirch) powder
3 tsp of turmeric powder
3-4 cloves of garlic
½ tsp of cumin seeds/powder
2 tsp of salt/to taste
250 gm of prawns
250 gm of lady fingers
Method of preparation:
For fresh coconut milk, grate the coconut and combine the chilli powder, turmeric powder, garlic, cumin and 2 glasses of water in a mixer-grinder/blender.
Pass it through a sieve and squeeze the milk out of the mixture. Put the squeezed mixture back in the blender with two glasses of water. Use the same method to extract the milk. This second extraction will be thinner.
The easier and faster method is to use readymade coconut milk.
For both methods, chop the onion finely and sauté in two tbsp of oil in a saucepan. Add green chillies (whole with a small slit in them).
If using readymade coconut milk, blend the garlic, cumin, red chilli powder and turmeric and add this mixture to the chopped onion and green chillies in the pan (mixture with freshly squeezed coconut milk is added directly to the saucepan with onions).
Fry for 2-3 minutes before adding the coconut milk. On a low flame, bring the mixture to a boil while stirring intermittently for about 20-25 minutes. Add the bimblis and let the curry boil for a few minutes while stirring.
Finally, bring the curry to a boil on a high flame for about 3 minutes and add the lady fingers. Let them cook first on a high flame for around 2 minutes and then for about 15 minutes on a low flame. Add the prawns and let them cook for three minutes and turn off the flame.
Enjoy this Goan favourite with some boiled rice or pão!