Bimbli: The Goan Alternative To Vinegar

One of the pillars of the Goan flavour palate is sour. No dish that truly belongs to the Goan culinary fold passes the gates without at least a touch of kokum or brown vinegar to give it an edge. Traditional kitchens follow the seasons and the harvests, as opposed to the trends, and every household has its personal favourite souring agent. One such underrated one is the Bimbli. 

This summer fruit is sometimes known as the Goan cucumber or tree sorrel and is a back garden find for most people in Goa. The fluorescent green leaves are a telltale indicator and most old hands can spot a Bimbli tree in seconds. Because it has high water content, Bimbli can be very difficult to preserve beyond its limited season and requires a dedicated practised hand to carry out the process. The fruits are slit lengthwise, quartered and then heavily salted to help draw out as much moisture as possible. It is then left to sun dry before being sealed in airtight jars. 

The most common place you’ll spot or rather a taste – Bimbli is in fish and prawn curries where the slight tang is perfect to offset the local fish. But it’s not just about flavour, Bimbli can help in regulating blood sugar, controlling hypertension, strengthening the bones and easing a cough. It may sound like a magic cure-all but in Goa it almost is. This delicious addition to any dish helps take it to the next level.


  • 25 Bimbli
  • 75 gms dried prawns
  • 75 gms Dried Baby Prawns 

For the Masala Paste:

  • 12 -14 Dried Red Chillies 
  • 6 Clove Garlic 
  • 2 cloves
  • 6 Black peppercorns
  • ¼-inch cinnamon stick
  • 75 gms dried baby shrimp
  • 125 ml palm vinegar
  • 3 medium onions
  • ½ inch ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
  • 150 ml oil
  • ½ tsp salt


  • Wash and dry the bilimbis. Cut into discs and place them in a bowl. 
  • Apply ½ tbsp. salt and keep outside for 5 to 6 hours or for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Soak all the ingredients for the masala including the dry shrimp (mentioned in masala ingredients) in the vinegar for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
  • After soaking for the specified time, grind the ingredients of the masala to a fine smooth paste along with the turmeric powder and keep aside.
  • When you are ready to cook the balchao, take a pan and heat the oil in it. Add the onion and sauté on medium heat till it turns light golden.
  • Add the chopped ginger and garlic and saute for a minute on low heat (don’t let it brown). Then add the dry prawns and galmbo and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Now add the ground masala paste and saute for another minute. Drain the bilimbis (reserve the liquid) and add to the pan. Mix well. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes whilst stirring in between.
  • Open the lid and add the bilimbi liquid/juices that you had reserved. Add 2 tbsp. sugar and cook covered for another 6 to 8 minutes or till the bilimbis are cooked but not soft.
  • Taste for salt, sugar and sourness and adjust to your taste. If you add anything, cook for another 5 minutes. Switch off the heat and allow it to cool completely.