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Friday, April 23, 2010

How to Prepare and Use Tamarind in Recipes

Tamarind 1

Me (Vietnamese Tamarind) is a common ingredient in several dishes for a slightly sweet-tart flavor. You can buy tamarind pods whole for a few bucks at the Asian or Mexican grocery store. I find the Asian tamarind of better quality than the Mexican tamarind in my area -- pods intact, fresher, sweeter tasting.

You can actually snack on these plain if you wish. They taste like chewy sweet-tart candy.

To prepare tamarind for recipes is pretty simple.

Peel off the other covering of the pod and you'll get the fleshy inside with seeds and membranes. Peel off the membranes and add the pods to pots of soup if you'll be straining out the stock. If you're not straining out the stock, picking the meat off the seeds can be a pain.

Tamarind 2

So what I prefer to do is to buy seedless tamarind blocks. Sure there's still some bits of seed covering, but no pits. I just slice off what I need for recipes, wrap it back up in a ziploc bag and store it in my fridge. Since these are already deseeded, I just toss in a slice or two into my soup while the broth is cooking.

Tamarind 3

If you want to use the tamarind in a sauce and to strain it out for a much cleaner appearance, then add about two parts water to one part tamarind. Put the mixture in a small pan on medium-low heat.

Tamarind 4

Once the tamarind dissolves, strain out the chunky bits and you'll have a smooth sauce.

Tamarind 5

You can then add this strained tamarind sauce to recipes instead of the pure seedless chunks. I prefer using either my homemade tamarind sauce or seedless slices as the tamarind concentration isn't as diluted. The prepared tamarind concentrates in jars and packages at the store don't taste the same to me. And really, slicing off a bit of seedless tamarind when I need it is so little work, it doesn't make sense for me to buy it in a jar.

Some of my recipes using tamarind:
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)
Canh Chua Tom (Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup)
Cua Rang Muoi Tieu, Me, Gung, Hanh, Toi (Vietnamese Salt and Pepper Crab with Tamarind, Ginger, Scallions, and Garlic)
Mieng Kham (Thai Leaf-Wrapped Snack)
Penang Asam Laksa (Malaysian Penang-Style Tamarind and Fish Soup)
Tom Yum Goong Kai (Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp and Chicken Soup)

Other ingredients posts can be found in "Peek in My Kitchen."

1 year ago today, Chocolate Ginger Cookies so easy that even a 2-year-old can make them.
2 years ago today, Iceberg Lettuce, Radish, and Carrot Salad.
3 years ago today, old-fashioned mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounded by hand at Fugetsu-Do Sweet Shop, the oldest business in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo and possibly the inventor of the Chinese fortune cookie.


  1. I use the blocks as well. It lasts forever in the fridge and it's totally easy to cut off a chunk and loosen in warm water. I don't like or recommend the liquid stuff at all.

  2. Darlene,
    I don't like the packaged stuff either. Sometimes it doesn't even taste like tamarind to me.

  3. Could you put up a recipe for spicy tamarind candy :). I've been looking everywhere and I think you would be able to do it the best.

  4. Jay,
    You don't like the tamarind candy in stores? Hmm. I've never attempted to make candy before. You mean chewy? Perhaps like taffy with a kick?


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