Tamarind takes it's English name from the Arabic, tamar-hindi, meaning ‘Indian date’, although it is also known as ‘imli’. When fresh, the tamarind pods can be eaten as a snack, but it is most often seen as a cooking ingredient, in the form of a tamarind block.
A block of tamarind contains the seed pods, stripped of the outer husk and squashed together. It needs to be softened with water and strained before it can be used.
Often used as a souring agent in Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine, tamarind has a distinct sweet and sour flavour and brings a taste to dishes which is hard to replicate. It can be used in curries, chutneys, stir fries and glazes. When used in marinades, as well as adding flavour, the acidity of the pulp helps to tenderise meat. It also makes a secret appearance on cheese on toast around the country, as an ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce!
How to prepare:
- Pour roughly an equal amount of hot water over the tamarind (e.g. 1 cup of broken tamarind to 1 cup hot water) and leave to steep for 20 minutes.
- Push the mixture through a fine mesh sieve a little bit at a time, using your fingers or a spatula.
- You will be left with the fibres in the sieve and the thick juice in the bowl. The juice is what is used in cooking; the fibres can be discarded or used to flavour water, if you like the taste of tamarind on its own.
Now you've got the know-how, here are some classic recipes to try: