Tamarind paste and tamarind concentrate are used in many different cuisines. In Thailand, tamarind is used in dishes like Som Tum, Pad Thai and as sauces like in son-in-law eggs. Tamarind is a fruit that grows in pods on trees. In its natural form it can range from sweet to sweet and sour to sour.
I had first learned about tamarind from my cooking classes but my driver used to point out the trees, and the fruit in its natural form, to me all the time. My volunteer job, in Thailand, had tamarind trees all over the place and let us take as many as we wanted. My driver, Khun Kaweevat, loved tamarind. He said the ones from the orphanage trees were priow maak maak (very, very sour). I think he prefered the sweeter ones better.
So, let’s say you have are interested in making my delicious son-in-law eggs and the recipe calls for tamarind juice but you have no idea what it is, or even where to buy it from. Let me try to help.
Most Asian markets or specialty markets will have tamarind in one form or another. I was at Berkeley Bowl today and noticed they had three varieties. I have purchased all of these on separate occasions and I prefer the wet tamarind the best.
This tamarind is already in the concentrated form. It has great flavor and I have used it quite often but the problem with this and other concentrates is that it can lose its flavor quite fast. Even if I made pad thai, som tum and 3 other Thai dishes that required tamarind, I would still have some left over. I just can’t use it fast enough.
This brand was not good. I bought it once to try it but it had a very odd flavor to it. Tamarind juice is supposed to have a sweet and sour flavor but this one was just odd. If you see it in your grocer I recommend passing it up.
This wet tamarind is my new favorite. I like it because it has a great balance between sweet and sour and you can make the amount you need without wasting any of it. This type of tamarind just takes a little work before using it in your favorite recipes. It is very sticky and gooey so it can require some delicate handling if you don’t like to get your hands dirty, ha ha.
What you will need:
A small mesh strainer
What you will do:
1. Bring water to the boil
2. In one of the bowls, add some of the wet tamarind. Use a knife or spoon to break off some of the tamarind.
3. Pour a little of the hot water to soften the tamarind. You don’t want to add too much water or you will end up with very liquidy juice. I like the tamarind to coat the back of a spoon; not too thick, not too thin, just right.
4. After tamarind has softened, strain the pulp and water into the other bowl and press all the liquid out.
5. Transfer to a storage jar and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.
The pulp and the tamarind liquid. In Thailand, I used to find tamarind in single use packets for 10 baht or about 0.30 USD. I loved them because I would just use one when making som tum or pad thai. Sometimes paying for convenience is worth it. Now, that I am back home in the land of everything expensive I am always looking for a deal. The wet tamarind is about 0.50 USD cheaper than the already made concentrate (probably cheaper at an Asian market) and will last me a lot longer. A win win!
Cheers and happy eating!