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Tamarind is a fruity souring agent used in many cuisines including Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican and Indian. It adds a fabulous dimension to food (similar to the job Pomegranate Molasses does in Moroccan dishes). The name is derived from the Hindustani word meaning date (as in the fruit date not the ‘fancy going to the movies?’ date). Tamarind is also a natural preservative.
The large evergreen trees are native to Africa and are cultivated in tropical areas of the world.
Most countries, where tamarind is grown a drink is made using tamarind pulp, adding soda water, sprig of mint and a slice of lemon with a little sugar to sweeten. Recipe is available below. It’s so refreshing on a hot summers day.
Tamarind added to sweet lollies are also popular in Mexico.
Rarely to be purchased fresh outside it’s natural growing habitat, the bean pods are brown skinned and cocoon the sticky coated seeds with a soft lining.
Tamarind is available at Asian supermarkets in blocks (which look a bit like Christmas cake) containing seeds and pulp. Or it can be purchased already diluted as a liquid concentrate. Whilst the concentrate is convenient, the block gives a far better flavour and is certainly not difficult to prepare.
To make tamarind concentrate from a block, simply combine equal amounts of just boiled water and tamarind block, broken into walnut size pieces. Allow to soak for 5 or so minutes, and when water is cool enough, massage the pulp from the seeds using fingers. Pass through sieve and discard seeds.
If preparing a larger amount than needed just fill ice cube trays and freeze, it is then conveniently on hand in approximately tablespoon blocks to use any time. Store in snap lock bags so ice trays are available for other uses – oh such practical advice we give you.
As tamarind is acid, never marinate any recipe including tamarind in a reactive metal container such as aluminium as it will taint the food. Always use a non-reactive dish such as glass or china.
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