Cocum: A restaurant in Hampton Court that replicates the cuisine from Keralan village homes and small restaurants. Branches also found in Cambridge, Raynes Park and Sutton.
I knew we had stumbled upon a gem as soon as the popadoms and dips arrived –nothing like the usual mango chutney/mint/lime pickle/onion combo that you usually get in Indian restaurants (which I love, but, y’know don’t exactly replicate the real stuff over there) – oh yes, these were different, and every mouthful took me back to being on a houseboat on the Keralan backwaters.
Everything we ate in Cocum was delicious, but what makes it stand out from the the crowd is the selection of less familiar items – oothappam, dosa, vadai, kulfi, gulab jamun – and these are the focus of today’s blog post.
So, what’s on the menu?
Typically eaten for breakfast, oothappam (also known as an uttapam) is a thick, almost bready, pancake made from a batter of vigna mungo (a black bean grown in south Asia) and rice flour. Typical topping include tomatoes, onion and chillies, and they are served with sambar (I’ll come on to this) and chutney.
A dosa is a fermented pancake made from rice batter and black lentils, also typically a breakfast item. Much thinner than an oothappam, it is stuffed with a vegetable filling and folded. We ordered a masala dosa – stuffed with spicy potatoes – and asked for ours with spinach.
A doughnut-shaped fritter made from a dough of gram flour and lentils with chillies and onions. Vadai are eaten as a snack throughout Southern India as well as Sri Lanka, as mentioned in a previous posts 33 Hours on the Coimbatore Express and Sri Lanka: Where is all started.
Served alongside dosa, oothappam and vadai at breakfast or snack time, or indeed as a meal in itself with rice, sambar is a stew made from tamarind, lentils, pigeon peas (a tropical green pea), vegetables and spices.
Traditional Indian ice cream, but slightly firmer and creamier, taking longer to melt in the scorching Indian heat. It is traditionally sold by kulfiwallahs who keep it cool in large earthenware pots filled with ice and salt. We chose pistachio flavour, however other flavours include mango, almond and malai (clotted cream).
A popular dessert across the entire Indian subcontinent, gulab jamun is thought to originate in Afghanistan. The name is Persian: gulab means rose water and jamun refers to a jambul, a South Asian fruit. Gulab jamun is prepared by deep frying balls of khoa (dried whole milk; similar to ricotta cheese) then placing into sugar syrup flavoured with cardamom, rose water or saffron.
There is nothing I can say to do the delicious food at Cocum justice. If you have ever been to Southern India, visit Cocum to revive your senses and take you back. If you have never been to Southern India, go along to taste something a bit different. The friendly and helpful staff will guide you through your order by making suggestions and offering explanations of the unknown dishes!
Did you know…?
Cocum (kokum) is a precious and valuable spice seen only in some parts of Kerala and very rarely anywhere else in the world. It is a plant in the mangosteen family, latin name Garcinia indica, and it is the dark purple dried rind of the cocum fruit that is used to give a souring taste to food in a similar way to tamarind. It is commonly used in coconut-based curries, vegetable dishes, fish curries and chutneys. Oh, and it can be used to treat flatulence, piles and dysentery – which might be just as well! See here for more details.
How to find
Cocum, 20 Bridge Road, Hampton Court, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9HA. (It is literally a 1 minute walk from Hampton Court railway station.)
Tel : 02089413540 / 02089791531