The Tamarind is a leguminous tree which grows in tropical climates. Originally from Africa, it now grows in tropical regions around the globe being most common in South Asia and Mexico.
Its fruits are called an indehiscent legume which means that it doesn’t open naturally when it reaches maturity. Inside the fruit are a few large seeds and a sticky, tart pulp which when dried is even more tart.
The largest producer today is India although Thailand and Mexico are major producers.
It is used in everything from desserts to wonderful chutneys. It can be eaten fresh or dried it is sweet but a little tart and a small amount goes a long way.
The pulp can be eaten alone or with a little sugar to make it less tart and to give it a much more mellow flavour.
I use it a lot in cooking and I think my favourite dishes are:
Tamarind prawns and beef rendang. The addition of tamarind to your cooking takes your dish to another level.
Beef Rendang is a recipe given to me by my friend Mamik and it is very nice and the beef is amazing. It is also my go-to recipe if I want that special dish to impress.
1kg beef (Bottom Round)
1-litre Coconut Milk (3 sm tins and made to one litre with water)
Grind together and put on one side, 1 tbsp Coriander seeds, 1 tsp Cumin seeds and 1 tsp white peppercorns.
2 Star Anise.
Half cup toasted coconut (pound in pestle until oil is released and it looks like a paste.)
1 Turmeric Leaf (Leave leaf whole but tear side to stem along leaf) this releases the flavour.
2 stems lemongrass crushed along the stem.
2 Lime leaves.
Soak 1-2 tsp Tamarind pulp in a little water and set aside for later.
Blitz the next 4 ingredients together to make the curry paste.
2cm Fresh Turmeric.
5 Cloves Garlic
10 large red chillies (deseed if you want a milder curry)
To make Curry:
Cut beef into large cubes.
Put a tbsp oil of your choice in a cooking pot (I use a wok). Add Curry paste and cook and stir for 5 mins, add beef and stir to combine. Add coconut milk/water mixture and stir to combine.
Slowly bring to a gentle simmer, add torn turmeric leaf, lemongrass and lime leaves and star anise.
Cover pan and cook until meat is tender at least 3 hrs on a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground coconut paste about half hour before the end of the cooking time and also the tamarind liquid and this is when the magic happens and the taste goes from just another curry to something wonderful.
When the meat is cooked and tender remove the turmeric leaf and lemon grass stalks although if we are not eating the curry until the next day I leave them and remove them before we eat the curry.
This curry should traditionally have a very thick paste and is also best eaten the next day to allow the flavours to develop.
However, as Europeans prefer a runnier sauce you can choose not to reduce down as much.
Tamarind is also great as a marinade for meat as it breaks down and tenderises tougher cuts of meat. It is used to make jams and syrups it is also one of the secret ingredients of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce which is a fermented sauce which has any uses.
Great in smoothies mango and tamarind smoothie is very nice it also has many other culinary uses.
This little dip is a recipe from Bali very easy to make but made more special by the addition of tamarind.
Called Rujak sauce it is lovely with mangoes.
Take 200gm of palm sugar shaved.
15 gm of tamarind flesh and 5 tbsp of water leave to infuse for 5 mins and then drain and keep the tamarind flavoured water.
6 or more Thai chillies.
1/4tsp shrimp paste and 1/4tsp salt.
Blitz all these ingredients together and you have fiery little sauce.
Health Benefits of Tamarind.
This picture shows the green pods of the Tamarind tree before they ripen and what a magnificent tree it is.
Tamarind like many fruits and vegetables has a long history of healing and aiding stomach disorders and is used as a laxative.
Tamarind Preparations are used for fevers, sore throats, inflammation of joints and sunstroke. The leaves dried or boiled are made into poultices to help reduce swollen joints, sprains, boils, haemorrhoids and conjunctivitis.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this rather plain brown pod with the capacity to elevate your food to something else.
Images are my own or from Pixabay and require no attribution.
Thank you for reading this post I hope you enjoyed it…If you did please reblog or share and let me know what you do with Tamarind in the comments if you use it….It would be lovely to chat with you…I always reply….