What is Tamarind?

Tamarind is a tree that grows well in tropical climates.  It was originally grown in Africa. But today is found growing in many tropical regions worldwide.  The tree grows pods that are considered legumes.  Inside the pods are large seeds and a sticky tart pulp. The flavor is sweet but tart.  Due to the tartness, it is often mixed with sugar.

Tamarind makes a great base for chutneys, sauces, marinades, and stews.  And is a common ingredient in Indian cooking.  You can also find it frequently in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian cooking.

India is the biggest producer of tamarind.  Thailand and Mexico are also major producers. In Mexico they make a candy called Mexican Tamarind or Tamarindo Candy (see recipe below).   In Nigeria, they make a juice/drink called Tasmiya (see recipe below)

Tamarindo Candy (Mexican)

  • 1 pound tamarind pods
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar (save a 1/2 cup for later)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Chile de arbol (optional and to taste) or cayenne

To get to the sticky fruit, you need to remove the outer shell and inner strings. After you remove the shell, break them apart in smaller pieces. Leaving the seeds.  Add all to a strainer and rinse.

In a pot add half of the water.  Add tamarind and cook over a low to medium heat. Stir until the fruit breaks down and looks more like a paste. Mash the tamarind as it cooks. If needed, add water little by little until you get a thick consistency.

Once you have a thick paste, add salt.  While stirring, add the sugar a cup at a time. Once the sugar is incorporated. Remember to save 1/2 cup for later. Add the Chile de Arbol.  Stirring continuously, turn heat up a bit and bring to a boil.

Using a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  Like cookies, drop a heaping tablespoon.  Place cookie sheet into refrigerator for about 1 to 2 hours. Until harden.

Add a 1/2 cup of sugar to a plate.  Roll each Tamarindo piece in the sugar.

Tsamiya Juice (Nigerian)

In Nigeria they call Tamarind, Tsamiya.  Which they use to make a popular drink called Tsamiya juice.  They also have a snack known as Licky Licky.

The Tsamiya juice is used to be used as a flavor enhancer.  It is also used as a laxative and cleanse drink.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounce Tsamiya (Tamarind)
  • 2 quarts water
  • Sugar or Honey to taste
  • Optional cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, honey, or grated ginger
In a pot, bring the water to a boil. Remove the brown shell from the tamarind to expose the pulp. Place the tamarind (Tsamiya) pulp into pot. Boil for about 20 minutes.
Remove tamarind liquid from the heat.  Let tamarind and liquid cool completely.  Once cooled, while still in the water, work the pulp with your hands to separate seeds from the pulp. Once done, strain.  Keep liquid (juice).
Dilute the juice with more water and add sugar or honey to taste. Refrigerate and serve chilled. Before serving you can add one to some of the following:  cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, honey, or grated ginger to enhance the taste.

Coconut Tamarind Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • 10 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  •  Juice from 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 6-7 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
  • ¾ cups coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoons cilantro,  chopped
  • 1½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1½ tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 onions, finely diced
    3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2½ tablespoons minced ginger
  • ½ tablespoons paprika
  • Chopped tomatoes (2 small cans)
  • 4 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions

  1. Mix lime juice, pepper, and turmeric in a large bowl. Add chicken to lime mixture and flip until coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add mustard seeds, curry, and onions. Stir, cover, and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, paprika, tomatoes, broth, and sugar. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until sauce has thickened and reduced.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Heat 4 tablespoons of the remaining coconut oil in a skillet and fry chicken until golden.
  6. Pour excess oil into a oven safe bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.
  7. for the sauce, gentle add ½ cup of water to skillet.  Then add lime juice mixture to tomato mixture.
  8. Place chicken in a roasting pan.  Then pour sauce over chicken.
  9. Cover and bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is tender.
  10. Transfer chicken to a serving dish.
  11. Place sauce into a stovetop safe roasting pan.  Put on burners.  Turn heat to low.  Stir in tamarind pulp, coconut milk, and half the coconut cream.  Bring sauce to a simmer.
  12. Pour sauce over chicken.
  13. Drizzle with remaining coconut cream.
  14. Garnish with cilantro.
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