Very occasionally I come across some fresh tamarind in our local Asian shops. Sometimes it is ripe, sweet ripe tamarind, dark and luscious to eat. But more often it is green, unripe tamarind. The green tamarind has the most intense sour taste that you can imagine. It is eaten as a snack in India with salt and chilli – a hard but padded surface next to you is essential, to bang your fist on when the tartness fully hits you 🤣.
I love to capture that tartness, or the essence of it, by making a Tamarind Molasses (aka Tamarind Syrup). While I make this most of all with the green Tamarind pods, the recipe can also be used for ripe pods.
If you wanted to you can even make this from a block of dried Tamarind or some Tamarind Concentrate. See the recipe notes. It won’t be AS good as using pods, but will still be amazing.
If using green tamarind pods, wash them well, and cut into small pieces. It is too difficult to remove the pods from the flesh.
If using ripened pods, remove the pulp, stones and strings from the inside of the shells and discard the shells.
Simmer the pods or pulp in enough water to cover until the flesh is very tender and has separated from the pods or stones and strings.
If using dried tamarind, simmer in water until all pulp comes free from the strings and fibres.
Now, for pods or dried tamarind, drain, reserving the liquid and pushing the pulp through the strainer. Use your hands to squeeze out any remaining liquid. Discard the pods, stones and strings.
(If using tamarind concentrate, simply mix concentrate with water and continue as below.)
Add the liquid to a saucepan with enough jaggery, palm sugar or brown sugar to achieve the sweet-sour taste. You will need to add and taste until you get the right balance as it will depend on the tamarind. Ripe tamarind does not need a lot of sugar while the green tamarind will need quite a bit. You are aiming for a background sweetness with a palatable sourness.
Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to bring it to a slow-medium simmer. Reducing the liquid at a simmer, rather than at a boil, drives off fewer flavour compounds and results in fresher, more complex flavour.
Simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the mixture is syrupy and has reduced. Set aside to cool. (Watch the syrup, stirring occasionally, so that it does not turn to toffee.)
Keep in the fridge in an airtight jar.
The molasses keeps well in the fridge. I suspect that it will freeze well too.
How to Use Tamarind Molasses | Tamarind Syrup
Use in summer in icy drinks – add sugar and tamarind syrup to a jug and fill with water, mineral water or soda.
Use to drizzle over roasting vegetables – I adore Brussels Sprouts cooked with Tamarind Molasses.
Add to dressings in place of vinegar or lemon juice.
Add to marinades – we do one for tofu and then grill or bake the tofu.
Use in this Sticky Tamarind Tofu.
Gorgeous drizzled over icecream or fresh fruit.