What is tamarind?
Growing up in Singapore, tamarind, or assam jawa as we call it locally, was used in many dishes so I was rather surprised to learn that this fruit actually originates from Africa! Unfortunately, none of my fellow bloggers contributed an African tamarind recipe, but if you know ways to cook tamarind African-style, I’d love to hear!
I always say Greedygirlgourmet is about bold flavours and tamarind is a classic example of the type of flavour I love: it’s very strong and a little goes a long way! Tamarind is sweet, tangy yet tart, with riper fruits being less sour, and often needs a bit of sugar to round up the taste beautifully. It’s also an amazingly useful plant: the fruits – and seeds!- are edible, the leaves used in herbal remedies (for sore throats) and the wood to make furniture.
How to use tamarind fruit
Tamarind fruit can be eaten in its:
- unripe green form, although it’s quite hard to find green tamarind- there’s no need to de-seed, just chop it up and add to chutney or pickles
- ripe (brown) form- remove the seeds and use the pulp.
- paste form- this is the easiest way to use tamarind and also its most common form in Singapore. The pulp has already been removed from the fruits, de-seeded and pressed into blocks. Usually, Singaporeans add water to this paste, then squeeze it through a cheesecloth to get assam water (tamarind juice) for our recipes.
- powder form (dehydrated tamarind)
Note: ripe brown tamarind and tamarind paste have long shelf lives when refrigerated
Tamarind noodle and rice recipes
Tamarind is wonderfully versatile- besides the spicy Thai fried rice shown below, it’s also used in Indian cuisine to make tamarind rice which, despite using 2 of the same main ingredients, tastes very different! (I didn’t include a link to a tamarind rice recipe as it calls for a number of specialist Indian ingredients such as hing and gram which not everyone may have in their kitchen. Do google it if you’re curious though!)
And don’t forget to make some homemade pork scratchings to sprinkle on top of the mee siam for crunch- it’s non traditional but a delicious addition!
Vegan ways to cook tamarind
Tamarind seafood recipes
Tamarind meat recipes
Did you know that tamarind is a great meat tenderiser (thanks to its acidity)? It works particularly well with thick slabs of beef and is actually a component of Worcester sauce!
The simplest way to use tamarind in drinks is to boil the pulp, strain then add sugar- voila, tamarind tea!
For other ways to cook tamarind, do check out Ottolenghi. When I lived in London, I loved eating at his cafes! He has a number of cookbooks out but also kindly provides free recipes courtesy of his website and his Guardian column! (Oh, he’s also on Masterclass– in fact, his preserved lemon salad was the very first and, to date, only recipe I’ve made from Masterclass!)