NEW ZEALAND: What to do with tamarind?

by Ginny Grant, Stuff


Despite its name (the Arabic “tamar hindi” translates as “date of India”), the tamarind tree hails originally from Africa, though its presence in Indian and South-East Asia dates back more than 2000 years.


The fruit is a bean-like pod. The immature fruit is greenish, with highly acidic flesh. As the pod matures the skin becomes brittle and the pulp dehydrates, becoming dark brown and sticky. This pulp is used mainly as a souring agent in both sweet and savoury dishes. There are also sweet tamarind varieties that are prized for use in desserts. The leaves of the tree are also added to salads and soups, imparting a flavour similar to sorrel.


Most tamarind in New Zealand comes from Thailand and is available at Asian food stores and some supermarkets. It comes in two forms – solid blocks of dried pulp and a liquid concentrate.


To use the pulp, break off a piece, cover with a similar volume of warm water and soak for at least 20 minutes to soften. Use your fingers to knead the fruit, then push through a sieve to remove the seeds. Use the resulting pulp for cooking. The concentrate comes ready for use, but is to my mind less complex and lacks the fresh flavour of the pulp.


Tamarind is essential in Thailand’s phad thai and Penang’s assam laksa (“assam” means tamarind in Malay).


Make phad thai by soaking a handful of rice noodles in cold water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok and quickly sauté a sliced shallot with 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 tablespoon of dried shrimp until fragrant. Add finely sliced meat such as chicken or beef (cubed, firm tofu is more authentic) and cook for a few minutes more. Add the noodles, 1⁄2 cup of chicken stock, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp and sugar to taste. Cook until the noodles are tender – a few minutes only. At this point you could add a couple of beaten eggs and stir through until just cooked. Garnish with chopped, roasted peanuts and bean sprouts and serve with chilli powder and lime wedges. (If tamarind isn’t available you could try substituting lime or lemon juice. However, as tamarind also has a slight sweetness, it may be necessary to add a little sugar to the recipe.)


Source: Stuff

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