Tamarind isn’t the prettiest looking item in the produce section, but it sure boasts a major flavor and taste punch! And, I monopolize on it in this easy, versatile, Tamarind Date Paste that can be used as a dip, a spread and even in curries and saute’s!
Sri lankan recipes usually call for quite an exotic list of ingredients – some that are incredibly hard to come by. Even my mom resorts to ordering some of her favorite ingredients from a specialty store in California. I, on the other hand, usually try and make my fusion-type curries with ingredients I can find at any local grocery store. Awhile back, I came across tamarind concentrate at a little South Asian grocery store I frequent. I used it to make some Date and Tamarind Chicken, but, seeing it’s one of those hard-to-find ingredients, I didn’t post a lot of other recipes using it.
I didn’t…but, things change…
This past weekend I was rummaging through the produce section at Kroger and guess what I ran into?!
Yup – you guessed right!
Tamarind! Fresh ripe Tamarind! In all their pod glory!
Now, tamarind isn’t the prettiest legume-fruit out there. A child in line in front of me took one peek into my grocery cart and proceeded to ask his mom why I had poop in a bag… aaaannnd, I had to smile because at one point in time, I used to think the same thing.
What tamarind lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste, nutrition and versatility in usage. Tamarind is such a palate teaser with it’s sweet, sour, tangy, undertones.
Some people say tamarind tastes like a combo of lemons and apricots, but, I’ve always thought it tasted a bit like dates drizzled with vinegar…which might not sound so appetizing to some, but can be totally addicting to others!
One thing for sure though is that tamarind is a powerhouse of good-for-you stuff. If you are interested, you can read more about it’s benefits here.
I grew up with my mom using tamarind in everything from sauces for “patties” (a Sri Lankan finger food quite like empanadas) to curries, soups, and stews. In fact, at the grocery stores back then, tamarind candy was quite popular too.
The tricky part to enjoying tamarind is getting it free of it’s “shell” and spidery vein inside the shell. Once the gooey interior is separated from the shell and vein, there are seeds in it that I separate through what might seem a bit of a tedious process. I soak the gooey pods in warm water, mash them up (most times with my hands) and then push the water/tamarind mix through a strainer to get that glorious paste.
Today, I have a simple Tamarind Date Paste to share with y’all. This Tamarind Date Paste is slightly seasoned with a bit of chili powder and orange zest and it is something that I use as a base in sauteed dishes as well as in curries and soups (recipes will be shared soon). This Tamarind Date Paste is also delicious as a dip for vadas or samosas. It is also taste-bud titillatingly delicious smeared on baked puff pastry or a bagel or slice of toast or a croissant – with a layer of cream cheese on top! BTW, Happy National Croissant Day to those celebrating!
I am keeping my fingers crossed y’all, too, find tamarind at those grocery stores y’all frequent and get to experience it’s benefits first hand!
Versatile Tamarind Date Paste
- 12 tamarind pods
- 1.5 cups hot water not boiling, I microwaved mine for about 1.30 minutes
- 1 cup medjool dates pitted
- 1 cup hot water again - not boiling either
- couple pinches salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- pinch of orange zest
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Remove the shells of the tamarind pods.
Then separate the spidery vein from it.
Add the 1.5 cups of hot water to the peeled tamarind pods and let it sit for about 40 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, soak the dates in the 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes
Then, add the date/water mix into a blender and pulse till a paste is formed (only takes a few seconds)
When the 40 minutes or so are up, the peeled, gooey, tamarind pods should be softened, so, using your hands or a fork, mash them up well.
Then, ran the water/tamarind mix through a strain and separate the shells and their "husks" from the tamarind paste.
Add this paste to a pan over a low flame.
Then add in the date paste into it, along with the coconut sugar, chili powder, apple cider vinegar and stir for 10 minutes.
The mixture should darken some.
Remove from the heat and add in the pinch of orange zest.
Can be enjoyed as is or stored in an airtight glass jar and used as needed.