Saturday, October 27, 2018

What is Tamarind and How Can you Use it?

Pods of tamarind in my Berlin Asian store
The disadvantage of growing up not only in a house where food was the least priority - we had books, after all, lots of them - but also the traditional tastes were very simple - garlic was part of (almost) everything so it didn't count as a 'spice' and adding chilli or pepper to a dish was a great cooking achievement (did I say my mom actually never used salt in the kichen) - was that I had a very long way acknowledging basic spices and flavors. While some were debating about what kind of Oriental spices are suited for the lamb, I was slowly exploring various peppers and trying to understand how much salt I shall add to a soup to make it really tasty. 
As usual, I was able to use this relative disadvantage as an opportunity to better explore a flavor and therefore to set the basics for my own knowledge about foods and their hidden qualities that a good spice can perfectly outline. 
During my journey, besides the Middle Eastern flavors, I fell in love with Asian food. The combinations of exotic fruits, the freshness of vegetables and the sour-sweet variations are fascinating and probably correspond to by complex, curious personality. 
However, the more I am exploring the Asian stores, cookbooks and venues, the more I realize how much I still have to learn and test. Tamarind, is one of those products I am focused right now, that I am working hard to get to know.

Tamarind, the 'date' of India

A native fruit from Africa, particularly Sudan, but also growing in India, Pakistan or the tropical regions with a high popularity in South America and Mexico, tamarind has at the first sight the consistency of the date. The pulp inside the pod looks a bit like and biten raw it has a special sweet taste that justifies its name of 'date of India'. 
Unless you find them raw in their natural environment, it is usually found as pressed, the result of boiling the pulp, which has a nutty sweet taste. The young fruit has a completely different taste, sour, with a predominant acid note. It can be also dried and turned into a spice.
What you can do with tamarind: some hot chilli bonbons
The tamarind can be used in different cooking ways. Mostly for chutneys in India, in the Thai cuisine it is a constant ingredient for pad thai or seafood dishes, but also to add a sweet note to meats - especially lamb or duck which is so well suited for a variety of complex, complementary tastes. A very unusual discovery was a box full of bonbons made of a mixture of tamarind to which an explosive mixture of very hot chilli, salt and pepper was added. It simply exploded into your mouth and I strongly recommend to have it alone, at home, without sharing it with your kids. In my Asian store I also spotted a tamarind-based drink, which is a bit naturally sparkling. 
My challenge for the next weeks is to try at least one savory and one sweet dish using tamarind. As for now, I am looking for proper recipes and inspiration...A foodie story to be continued very soon.

Full in vitamins too

Tamarind has also a high concentration of nutrients, especially Magnesium and Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3. If consummed long term, it may have some positive effects on the immunity system, but such issues are normally determined by the individual's health/medical condition. It is also said to have a good effect on heart health and circulation, anti-inflammatory effects and help improve digestion. 

Something (more) unusual about tamarind

As you may know already, I am pretty interested in keeping my old silver family treasures in a good shape, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to discover that due to its relatively high level of acidity, it can be also used as a metal polish. It is a chemical-free solution, easy and does not affect the metal, as it might happen when you use vinegar or baking soda. Spread the tamarind on the surface of the cooper or bronze object and massage it throughouthly. The stains will be removed fast and your kitchen ware or decorative objects will regain their original healthy shining.

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