Garcinia cowa - the cowa mangosteen

Garcinia cowa – the cowa mangosteen

Garcinia cowa is a cousin species of the mangosteen and also bears edible sour fruits. This plant native to Asia, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Southwest China. In Vietnam, G. cowa grows naturally in northern provinces: Lào Cai, Hà Giang, Cao Bằng, Bắc Kạn, Lạng Sơn, Thái Nguyên, Phú Thọ, Vĩnh Phúc, and Hoà Bình. The plan is known locally as tai chua. The plant is best known in Vietnam for its fruits are are used as a source of acidity in cooking.  In Vietnam, a similar Garcinia species, known as Garcinia pedunculata, is also used with the same purposes.

green cowa fruits
Green cowa fruits
  • Family: Clusiaceae
  • Genus: Garcinia
  • Species: G. cowa
  • Synonyms: Garcinia kydia Roxb., Garcinia lobulosa Wall., Garcinia roxburghii Wight, Garcinia umbellifera Roxb. ex Wall., Garcinia wallichii Choisy, Oxycarpus gangetica Buchanan-Hamilton, Stalagmitis cowa (Roxb.) G. Don.
  • English name: cowa mangosteen, cowa fruits
  • Vietnamese name: tai chua, bứa cọng
cowa mangosteen
Sliced green cowa mangosteens – Vietnamese: tai chua

Medicinal uses

In Vietnam, local people often cook dried cowa fruit rinds to cure fever and thirst. Daily dose 6-10g.

dried cowa mangosteen slices
Dried cowa mangosteen slices

Culinary uses

Cowa mangosteens can be used in many dishes, creating a special sour taste. Braised fish with cowa mangosteens has some unforgettable flavor. Also, cowa fruits can be paired with dill in fish soup (less sour), or cooked in sour soup (more sour).

Braised fish with cowa mangosteen
Braised fish with cowa mangosteen

Unlike tamarind which has a strong sour taste, the sour taste of tai chua is mild, and delicate. In northern Vietnam, it can be added to the boiled vegetable water as a refreshing broth in Vietnamese cuisine.

Boiled vegetable water with cowa mangosteen
Boiled vegetable (morning glory) water with cowa mangosteen


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