Tamarind, also known as Indian Date, adds distinctive flavor to many cuisines around the world. The sweet/sour pulp of tamarind fruit provides the tang in Pad Thai and Worcestershire sauce and brings a pleasant zing to chutney, salad dressing, stir fry, marinades, sauces, desserts and drinks. Originally a native of Africa, tamarind is now grown in tropical zones all around the world. Tamarind’s bold flavor pairs well with chiles, garlic, ginger, clove, cardamom and BBQ sauces. Sweeten tamarind, just as you would lemon, with honey, dates or sugar for desserts and drinks.
Find tamarind pods in the produce department or jarred tamarind paste in the Asian food isle. The jarred product has the consistency of honey.
Break off the brittle shell of dried tamarind pods and pull out the fibrous strings. The shelled tamarind has seeds inside the paste. Pop a piece in your mouth and suck the fruit off the seed for a tangy treat.
Scrape the paste off the seeds with a spoon. Alternately, boil the shelled fruit in a small amount of water and strain the seeds out. (see tamarind candy, below)
One pod provide about a teaspoon of paste. Dissolve the pulp in a little hot water for sauces and cooking.
To make tamarind ale, use three shelled fruits for each cup of water. Boil the water, adding a tablespoon of sugar per cup to make sweet syrup. Drop the fruits into the hot syrup, cover and set aside for several days. Add spices such as cloves, cinnamon, or ginger as desired. Strain out the seeds and dilute to taste with ice water.
boiling the tamarind fruits
A popular Filipino candy recipe cooks one part tamarind, two parts brown sugar and two parts cooked, mashed sweet potato.
Start by boiling the shelled tamarind fruits in water. Stir occasionally until the seeds separate from the pulp. This took about 20 minutes.
Press the pulp through a sieve or food strainer to remove strings and seeds, adding enough water to process the pulp. More water makes it easier to press through the sieve, but it will take more time to boil down to a paste.
boiled tamarind fruits
Use two bowls to process through the sieve.
seeds from tamarind fruit
Mash the pulp to remove strings and seeds.
Frozen sweet potatoes.
Pour the tamarind back into your pot and boil uncovered at medium heat, stirring occasionally (about every five minutes.) Add fresh or frozen diced sweet potatoes. Mash the sweet potato with a fork as it softens. Stir often until it is the consistency of applesauce. The featured batch cooked for about an hour due to extra water added during the sieve process. Add sugar and spices as desired, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamon, salt, pepper, garlic, or a dash of hot sauce. The basic ratio is one part tamarind to two parts sweet potato and two parts sugar.
Boiling the sweet potatoes
use a fork to mash the sweet potoates
Finished tamarind paste
Roll the tamarind balls in granulated sugar
Stir constantly as the paste thickens. This batch went from applesauce constancy to finished paste in about 30 minutes. Cool the paste to room temperature.
Form into balls and roll in granulated sugar. Add a small amount of flour if the paste is too sticky. Store the tamarind candy in an airtight container in the fridge.
Basic Sweet Tamarind Chutney
1 part tamarind paste
1 part date paste
1 part water
1/2 part dark brown sugar
Cook over medium heat until smooth, about 25 minutes. Stir in spices.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Strain through a sieve if a smooth chutney is desired. Serve with crackers, bread, cheese, vegetables, potatoes, meats or drizzled over rice.
Tamarind pods will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several months.