Friday, June 10, 2011

Tamarind, an interesting ingredient

Tamarind is an interesting ingredient that has more depth than you know.  Also known as Indian Date, it is a fruit that comes from a tall shade tree indigenous to Asia and northern Africa.   In Mexico, you will find tamarind used in Aguas Frescas (I wrote about Aguas Fescas on May 27 , 2011) and recently it has popped up on some menus around San Miguel de Allende as a special drink, the Tamarind Margarita.  I was down at the casa with my brother, Carter, and a good friend of his, Jim.  After walking around town, Jim and I thought a stop at La Posadita for a cold margarita was just the ticket.  I did not have to do too much convincing for Jim to order a Tamarind margarita.  It was refreshing and had an interesting taste.  One is good but for a second one, a good old fashion margarita is what I want.
When making a Tamarind Margarita, use your basic margarita recipe but add a tablespoon of tamarind paste:  simmer 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp in 3 tablespoons of water over low heat, stirring until the pulp has dissolved.  Press through a fine-mesh sieve and add to your margarita.
Tamarind paste can be found in Asian and Middle Eastern markets.  It is sold in a dense block that can be stored in the refrigerator up to one year.  I do not recommend the tamarind concentrate sold in a jar, it is not as fresh tasting.
These brown pods, called tamrindo in Mexico, can be found in the market in San Miguel de Allende.  About 5" in length with  seeds and a sour-tasting pulp in the center.  When dried, it becomes extremely sour.  
In the 16th century, it was heavily introduced to Mexico by the Spanish colonist.  It became a common ingredient in Mexico's everyday cooking.   It is a favorite traditional sweet when mixed with sugar. 
Commonly used in sauces and chutney, it is a flavor more acidic than lime juice and vinegar.  Today you can find it in many other dishes such as a marinade or sauce for seafood, syrups, braises and even ice cream.  I am going to have to do some experimenting this summer.  I'll let you know if I come up with some good recipes.  Bon Appetit!

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