Lately Mat and I have been enjoying our meals using tamarind. What is Tamarind? Would you believe a fruit that originated in Africa used in savoury dishes?
This is the particular brand we’re using:
Here are the different forms you can find:
From the Clovegarden.com:
Tamarind pulp is widely sold in several forms, as illustrated in the photo above:
- Whole Pods: These are found piled in bins (mostly broken) in markets serving Hispanic communities, and carefully packed in windowed gift boxes for sale in Asian communities. This is the least convenient form as you must pick off the fragile shell before using. Otherwise prepare the same as for the block form but use a bit more to compensate for the seeds.
- Pressed Block: This is the most common form – pulp with the shell and most of the seeds removed. Thailand is the most common exporter but also India and other tropical countries.
- Concentrate (Regular Paste): Widely available and the most convenient form, you need only spoon it out of a jar. A tablespoon of this paste is roughly equivalent to a tablespoon of block soaked and strained. Thailand exports a number of brands, often labeled in incomprehensible Thai script and in Vietnamese as Nuoc Me Cha. They vary in quality (some have tiny bits of shell in them but this doesn’t seem to bother most recipes). A major brand from India is Laxmi which is the best I’ve used.
- Concentrate (Black) This seems to comes only from India. The most common brand in the US is Tamicon but there are others. It is highly concentrated and clearly has been cooked down giving it a bit of a molasses flavor. You’d need to dilute it with 2 parts water to 1 part concentrate to get it about where the regular paste is, but the flavor will still be different.
Mainly, my experiences with tamarind have been with Thai dishes. We’ve been making coconut curry pad Thai, fried rice noodles with tamarind marinated vegetables, and we’re looking for more recipes to incorporate into our rotation.
“Tamarind is the seed pods from the tamarind tree. It is widely used to provide a sweet and tart flavour to savoury meat and vegetable dishes and in drinks and deserts in South Asia. India is the top producer, growing tamarind in orchard-like plantations for domestic use and export.
Sweet and sour
Tamarind is the brown, tart flesh from the pods of a tree in the pea and bean family. The flesh surrounds the brown shiny seeds within the sausage-shaped pod. Pods are harvested at different stages of maturity according to their intended use.
Extracts from tamarind seeds are used as a stabilising agent in some ice creams.
Tamarind pods contain compounds which have recently been found to increase people’s resistance to infections.
In Orissa, India, a gum is prepared from ground tamarind seeds and spread onto cloth to prepare a base for making traditional folk paintings. Tamarind plants are also used to make dyes, glue, polish carvings and buildings.”
Tamarind is incredibly tasty and has a subtle flavour that is neither sweet, nor sour, but has this in between just perfect appeal. I highly suggest you try it for yourself.
Here are some easy recipes using tamarind:
Fairly easy Pad Thai Sauce: