A Tamarind Primer

I recently tossed a block of plastic-wrapped tamarind paste into my grocery basket on a whim. I was at a Mexican market, but the store offered unusual food items from around the globe.

Native to Africa but found throughout Southeast Asia , drought-resistant tamarind trees produce pods that encase small beans, and these beans nestle in a sticky pulp. During harvesting, the pods are discarded, and the pulp is pressed into cakes or blocks, like the kind I found at my market.

In Thailand, the pulp may be sprinkled with sugar and eaten as a sweet treat, or diluted and squeezed, creating a juice. It’s also used in making Pad Thai. In Latin America , tamarind juice is incorporated into chilly and refreshing agua frescas and batidos. And in Indian cookery, it’s a widely used souring agent, especially popular in tamarind chutney. In fact, tamarind has even been nicknamed the “Indian date.”

To incorporate tamarind paste into recipes, dissolve a small nubbin in hot water, as it’s highly concentrated.

Another interesting factoid? Tamarind is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.

Look for tamarind pods, pastes, and chutneys in Southeast Asian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern markets.

 

Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule.

 

 

 

PLUS:
-
The Daily Feed: The Enigmatic Persimmon
- See all of Cheryl's posts here

 

 

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