WHAT IS IT?
Tamarind. If you’re from any country in Africa, Asia, or Latin America, tamarind (tamarindo) is a no-brainer. Some folks break open the the pods, with their hard shells, and woody-veiny seed connections that look like they might have come out of a low-budget horror movie, and just suck the sticky sweet-and sour fruit meat right off of the “beans.”
While it’s less known as a “name” fruit in North America, and Europe, tamarind has so many uses in branded foods. It’s that taste that the Northern Hemisphere associates with “tropical.”
The powder is primo, because it takes a lot of the work out of taking the sticky sweet-meat of the seed’s fruit and process it into other foods. It’s one of the few fruits that doesn’t suffer from being freeze-dried, and ground.
Tamarind is the original sweet-and-sour. Its flavor is sour, sweet, and a little tangy, like a lemon meeting a date. The notes are what we associate with “tropical,” because tamarind has always been a cheap and easy natural sweetener for fruit punch, and other tropical-branded foods, in the US, and Europe.
Tamarind juice is a refreshing, popular beverage in a lot of places in the world, made by simply boiling the seeds with the fruit-meat in sugar water, and then straining it off.
The fruit is big nutrition: High in calcium, tartaric acid, natural sugar, and B vitamins. The leaves are also used in Indian cooking. Seed pods vary a bit. The Indian are larger, with more seed pods. The Mexican has been bred shorter, with more brittle seed-pods that are easier to open and process.
This powder keeps you from worrying about all of that. If you use it, remember that it is highly concentrated, as opposed to fresh tamarind, so a little goes a long way.
Freeze dried fruit has a shorter shelf life than other spices. You can watch the color fade as it ages. Order, as needed, in smaller amounts. Best within three months of delivery, use within six months.
You can extend its life by inserting a desiccant pack to the storage container to reduce moisture and keep it fresh a bit longer.
Indigenous to tropical Africa, it grows wild in Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania,and Zambia. In Arabia, it grows wild in Oman, frequently seen on mountainous sea-facing slopes in places like Dhofar. The majority is cultivated in Southern India, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The fruit and its many forms, are popular in most world cuisines, even in the United States, where it is less known by name, than brand. There, it just “hides” as a is a flavorant for all kinds of “tropical” fruit drinks, sauces, and candies.
- A piquant pop in steak sauce
- Tamarind sauce (chutney)
- Pad Thai
- Tamarind fish sauce
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Jazz Chef Luau Pork
- Troptails™ Mix- My tropical cocktail fruit mixer
- Tamarind-Fig squares
- Tamarind linguine under Coco Chicken or for poppin’ Pad Thai
Tamarind has been part of the world diet, and food trade, for millennia. The name comes from the Arabic words تمر هندي, tamuru hindiun, meaning “Indian date.”
It reached South Asia likely through human transportation: Arabic traders. Its cultivation goes back for several thousands of years, and now it grows wild in many parts of the world. It is widely distributed throughout the tropical belt, from Africa to South Asia, northern Australia, and throughout Oceania, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and China. The Spanish introduced it to the Americas in the 16th century. The first tamarind tree was introduced to Hawaii in 1797.
- tamon/taman – US Virgin Islands;
- tamarindo – Spanish; Portguese;
- tamarin, tamarinier, tamarinier des Indes, or tamarindier – French;
- tamarinde – Dutch & German
- tamarandizio – Italian
- tamarijn – Papiamiento of the Lesser Antilles
- sampalok – Philippines;
- asam jawa – Malaya;
- Other than tamarind, it can be called ambli, imli, or chinch – India;
- ampilm, or khoua me – Cambodia;
- mak kham – Laos;
- ma-kharm – Thailand;
- me – Vietnam.
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