Making Tamarind Paste

Unbeknownst to me, the tamarind is an somewhat popular ingredient in southern Indian cooking.

My love affair with tamarind began the first time someone told me what was in phad thai sauce (which includes tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and chilis.)  Upon hearing this, I just knew that I would always love tamarind because, hey, if it was in phad thai, it had to be good.

Quite frankly, after smelling fish sauce for the first time, I should have realized there is NO correlation between being in phad thai sauce and “good”.  Still I persisted in thinking I would like tamarind until I had my first bit of raw tamarind candy.

Um…yeah…not so much.

So what I have decided is that while tamarind by itself is not to my liking, when put into a sauce, it is actually pretty darn good.  Which is why when I saw that my Indian cookbook has  a number of recipes called for tamarind paste, I decided I would try to make my own.

Making tamarind paste is not hard at all, but it does require some manual labor.

You will need:

  • Eight ounces of tamarind
  • Water

(Told you it was easy.)

  1. Put the tamarind in a plastic bowl and cover with cold water.  Let the tamarind soak for at least an hour.
  2. Drain the tamarind.
  3. If you have a food mill, mill the tamarind pods at least twice to get a smooth paste.  If you do not have a food mill, roll up your sleeves and:
  4. Begin pressing firmly.  Soon, the tamarind will look like this:
    Tamarind paste is a lot of work...
  5. Add one half cup of water to the tamarind.
  6. Pick up pieces of the tamarind and squeeze them.  This will produce a small amount of juice and pulp.  It will also loosen the seeds.
  7. Pick out the seeds from the pod and remove all of the pulp which has stuck to it.  Discard the seeds.  The majority of the pulp comes from around the seeds.
    You're going to get your hands dirty.
  8. Continue until all of the tamarind has been broken down and there is no outer shell left.
  9. The tamarind paste may still be gritty.  It can be strained over a fine mesh.  (I used the splatter guard from my saute pan.

Viola!  You now have your very own tamarind paste.

So before I reveal how I used it, what do you do with tamarind?


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