Don’t you L O V E tamarind? I am not sure what I would do without this ingredient in the kitchen. While others rave about black garlic, it is the commonly available tamarind that gives that umami taste to my dishes. As a added bonus, it is at once sweet and sour. Oh, the delights of tamarind!
Occasionally, fresh tamarind pods are available at our Indian and Asian groceries. Sometimes we just nibble the tamarind from the pod, and sometimes we make tamarind paste for our Indian food, and a Mexican Summery cooling drink from the fresh paste. Win-Win.
The origin of the name comes from tamar-e-hind, which means fruit of India or date of India. It was called this in the Arab countries although it is a native of Northern Africa. Its arrival in India shows of healthy trade routes between Africa, the Middle East and the Sub Continent. The fruit was well known to the ancient Egyptians and to the Greeks in the 4th Century BCE, and is now commonly grown and used in used in India (where it is called imli in Hindi), Africa, Mexico, the Philippines, the Caribbean and throughout South East Asia.
Making Tamarind Paste from Tamarind Pods
You need tamarind pods, water and a good strainer.
The pods must be opened and the fruit removed. If the pod is fresh the bark shell will separate if you bend the pod in half. Older pods can be soaked hit hot water before peeling. Pull off the strings and remove any seeds that are easy to remove.
Place the fruit in a saucepan with only a little bit of water (3 – 4 Tblspn water per 1/4 cup fruit) and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Don’t overcook or the taste will suffer. Remove from heat and use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to gently mash the fruit against the bottom/sides of the pan. Then strain to get a brown pastey liquid. Press the fruit through the strainer to get as much pulp as possible into the liquid while straining out the seeds. Don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the strainer, as it will hold onto a lot of pulp.
Note that home-made pastes tend might not be as strong as purchased pastes or blocks of tamarind. Taste as you go, and add more if necessary.
Tamarind is usually used in small amounts to enliven a dish, and is common in Indian and South East Asian food. We have some recipes that feature tamarind – check them out. And this vinaigrette is one to bookmark.
Whisk 1 Tblspn tamarind paste with 3 Tblspn hot water until dissolved. Add 3 Tblspn canola oil, 1 Tblspn honey and a pinch of ground cumin; whisk to combine. Stir in 1 Tblspn finely chopped red onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.