How to Use Tamarind in Indian Food

Learn how to use tamarind from cookbook author Maya Kaimal in this Howcast Indian food video.


Let's talk about tamarind. Tamarind is the fruit of the tamarind tree. It grows in a pod, like this. Looks kind of like a runner bean. It's got a hard shell on it. So when it's sold it's sold as a block of the pulp from the inside. It's also sold as a concentrate that's very thick and like a thick, thick syrup. I tend to think that the block has a better flavor, more fruity flavor, but the concentrate is very convenient to use.

The way to work with tamarind is to pull off a piece of it and you're going to want to dissolve it in some hot water. It doesn't really dissolve, but it sort of breaks down in hot water and let it sit there for a little bit. And after it's kind of nice and soft, you can either work it with your hands a little bit. It's sort of mixture of pulp and skin and seeds. So it takes a little work to break it down, and then once you do, you're going to press it through a sieve to extract the juice. And you'll discard the solids and save the juice.

The flavor of tamarind can best be described as a sour date. It's very fruity but it's got that kind of deep, earthy date flavor too. And it's one of the main souring elements in Indian cuisine.

Vinegar and tamarind are the two most commonly used souring agents. It's the main ingredient in tamarind chutney, which is a lovely, tart, sweet and tart chutney eaten with friend foods like pakoras or papadum. And it's also used in a lot of fish curries, especially in the southern part of India. So it's really quite a nice flavor and I recommend buying it in the block if you're planning to work with it.

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