Wednesday, January 10, 2007

quick tamarind chutney sauce

this isn't the real way to do it, but it certainly is a very fast one. tamarind chutney — in this instance, we could easily say sauce — is both sweet, sour & spicy all at the same time and typically characterized by its fruity and gingery base. it is a very popular condiment that is often used to accent samosas and snack items, and is seen on the tables of many an indian restaurant. at a later point, i will make it the "real" way using dried tamarind but for now this is the quick route to a decent tasting "imli chatni" or tamarind chutney (sauce).

the tamarind tree, or tamarindus indica, is a tropical evergreen and said to have originated in africa, most likely from the sudan, and later made its way to india [and other parts of the world]. i was surprised to learn that it actually belongs to the same family as pulses (leguminosae).

this tree's name, derived from the arabic and persian language — tamar hindi, is also almost exactly the same in hebrew. directly translated, it means date of india. it is a very large tree with expansive branches. the leaves are small and composed of many little leaflets. at night they close up. in india, there is some lore surrounding this massive tree. according to author, anita rau badami in her book tamarind woman,
“[f]olklore has it that the tamarind tree is the home of spirits that do not let anything under the tree survive. Accordingly, travelers are advised not to sleep in its shade.

The tamarind tree is never used for auspicious ceremonies, as its fruit is sour. It is believed that the ceremony will turn sour and thus become fruitless and lose all meaning.”

the dried pods of the tamarind tree are distantly related to, and reminiscent of, carob [known in judaism as bokser or haruv (חרוב)]. its taste, however, is quite different from that of tamarind. notice the look and shape of both fruit from these trees and you will see what i mean when i say they look quite similar.

the tamarind is also popular in both the middle east and parts of central america, including mexico, and south america. in the middle east, it is sometimes used to flavour meat dishes to add a sour element and, as in latin american countries, a refreshing sweet and sour drink is made from it, as well. i love this drink which is simply made from tamarind pulp, sugar & water and some ice. it could be considered an acquired taste, however. it is called (re)fresco de tamarindo or agua de tamarindo. there is even a soft drink called jarritos. in some countries small, spicy tamarind candies are also much loved. how ever it is consumed, it is considered healthy.

in sephardic jewish cuisine, tamarind is used in much the same ways as is done in middle eastern countries. it flavours meats, is used for sauces and tamarind drinks.

did you know that tamarind is one of the ingredients of the common worcestershire sauce?

anyway, back to my original intent of this post, the recipe —

this version of the sauce uses tamarind concentrate which is easily bought in an indian or middle eastern store instead of the dried tamarind. it is a fair trade-off, in my opinion, when you don't feel like toiling with soaking, mashing, draining & straining the dried fruit or just don't have the time.

black salt, or sanchal (kala namak), is another item normally used in this sauce and one that needs to be picked up from an indian store. "black" is a bit of a misnomer as the powdered form is usually a pinkish colour when you buy it. read more here about this volcanic salt mineral and to see what it looks like in its two forms. it is uniquely indian and has a pungent, sulphurous edge to it. it really is actually much like the smell of hardboiled eggs but do not be off-put — you can make this chutney without it. it is somewhat of an acquired taste for those unaccustomed to it and if you are not adventurous or just not turned on by the idea of it, then simply omit it. it will not ruin the result of the chutney by any means. black salt is used in many snack type foods and for the often used chaat masala mixture sprinkled on a type of snacks called chaat, of which samosas is one of them. you can explore the subject further here if it interests you.

photo: gourmetsleuth - [you can buy it there]

this recipe does not include the typical raisins or dates. it is more a quick restaurant-type version, i would say. in any case, i hope you enjoy it! the "real" one, called so(o)nth, can also be prepared with souring agents other than tamarind like dried green mango. soonth is the hindi word for the star ingredient which is dried ginger. an authentic version using dried tamarind will appear one of these days.

update: more tamarind chutney recipes here.

quick tamarind chutney


1 1/4 c cold water
scant 1/2 c sugar (white or brown)
1 1/4 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black salt [kala namak]
1/8 - 1/4 tsp red chili powder

1/4 - 1/2 tsp garam masala

chopped peanuts, optional


put everything but the garam masala in a medium sized pot or as i do, in a fry pan. the larger surface area helps it to reduce much faster to the correct consistency.

bring the mixture to a boil and with a heat resistant spatula or wooden spoon, stir. make sure that the tamarind concentrate dissolves; it will be thick at first until it dissolves.

turn the heat to medium high, and keep stirring until the sauce/chutney is reduced to a almost syrupy texture. remember it will thicken somewhat upon cooling. if you find it is too thick add more water later by the tablespoon to obtain the correct texture. it should be like maple syrup or a bit thinner.

add the garam masala at the end. you may add roasted chopped peanuts to thicken it a bit and to add another texture and flavour. after it has cooled. if you are doing that, the mixture should be a bit thinner as the peanuts will thicken the sauce.

makes ~ 3/4 c to 1 c chutney

store in the refrigerator or freeze.


The TriniGourmet said...

i love tamarind sauce on pholourhie ... it's also really good on the fried fish 'sandwiches' that are beach food here :D

Krithika said...

your tamarind chutney looks very authentic. when this chutney is served for weddings it is garnished with sliced ripe bananas. some people garnish it with watermelon seeds.

ServesYouRight said...

ooh - delightful! I'm waiting for a JFI on tamarind!! Btw I came across a hurry-up version of tamarind chutney in the US made with cinnamon applesauce (please don't judge me harshly). What say?!

beenzzz said...

Tamarind has such a unique flavor. I've always been fond of it. As a kid, I remember the sugar coated tamarind candy I used to eat. Great stuff. This chutney looks wonderful!

burekaboy — said...

sarina - yum! fried fish sandwiches on a beach :)

krithika - lol, thanks. i hope it looks authentic (it's a recipe from my friend's mother who is indian!) didn't know about the banana or watermelon seed garnish part though. interesting ;)

smita - i'm sure (fear) there would be a profusion of this stuff for a jfi on tamarind. cinnamon applesauce!?! LOL. but then again, maybe i won't knock it til i try it.

beenzzz - love those candies, too. the ones from thailand are good also (and very spicy hot) but it's an acquired taste, i think. thanks for the compliment :)

Princess Jibi said...

Our village people believe the legend. We have like some really, really big tamarind trees at the sea wall. The house snakes and stuff. Alot of people go there in afternoons and come back not feeling well. People say that evil spirit went in them.

I must admit am scared to pass them some afternoons. Cause the are normally so big and scary looking.

I like the tamarind chutney really sweet, it goes well with cassava balls, or egg balls for me...

burekaboy — said...

pj - interesting, but not surprising, that the same superstitions about this tree followed all the way to guyana. i guess it can be spooky when you hear these stories and you know some people really believe them!

tamarind chutney is my fave also :) never heard of "eggballs" -- sounds like a funny name. what is it?

Princess Jibi said...

lol I guess... eggballs is where you take like boiled masshed potatoes, or cassava and cover a boiled egg and fry it...

burekaboy — said...

pj - oh ok, that is sort of what i was guessing. i've never had anything with cassava root before. i've seen it many times in the vegetable stores around me though.

Vidya said...

I love your blog, been a silent visitor for a long time now. AFAIK, sonth in Hindi is not dried green mango, it is dried ginger powder, yellowish brown powder which packs a punch. Never heard it called soonth. Dried green mango powder is amchur, which is a brownish tangy powder.

burekaboy — said...

hi vidya! - first thing: welcome and thanks for your comment.

second: ACK!!! :o that was definitely a big mistake and thank you for pointing it out to me. i just looked at it and see that i must have placed the word sonth in the wrong place [sentence] in the post. sticking it there definitely said the wrong thing! i guess i was thinking one thing and writing another. some of my indians friends use amchur to make what they call soonth. i will correct it. THANKS, again :))

hope to "see" you in future visits. please don't be a silent visitor anymore! i appreciate your feedback and comments. to make a change ;P

burekaboy — said...

done! thanks again, vidya :)

question for you: would you happen to know if is goondh the same as gum arabic?

Vidya said...

Thanks for the quick fix. BTW, I made the quince jelly from your blog and it rocks.

Goondh looks like the photo of gum arabic you have, but I don't know if it is the same or the gum from another acacia variety.

burekaboy — said...

vidya - you did?! wow, thanks for telling me :) i'm glad you liked it. did you make it the same way or just flat and cut into squares or diamonds, perhaps? thanks for the feedback about it. much appreciated.

i've never been able to find any info about which tree goondh is harvest from.

everything i've read says it's either ground up or cooked in crystal form til it pops and then it's dissolved. some recipes though have HUGE amounts of it, like a cup and a half!! sounds odd. if you ever find out more about it, let me know :)

again, thanks for informing me about the mistake in the post. i'm surprised no one said anything earlier :-\

Vidya said...

The reason you didn't hear about it earlier is because your readers are polite and understanding, instead of being a nitpicker like me ;-)

I made the quince sweet exactly like you have written. I rolled half the balls in regular sugar and the other half in chopped walnuts. I even have photos of these lovely beauties. I stumbled on to your blog when looking for quince recipes. I had gone to the neighborhood lebanese store and found these sweet smelling fruits that I hadn't seen before. Assuming they were a kind of apple, I bought a couple. But when I bit into it, it was too tangy and almost inedible. So I started looking online for photos of similar fruit, so I could find its name. When I learnt that they are really eaten cooked, I looked for the membrillo recipe and found you. I have been a lurker ever since :-)

burekaboy — said...

hey vidya - lol, actually i believe they didn't read through the whole post ;P i think that often when you know about something, you tend to skim and jump to leave a comment in a blog. or, as you say, they were being "polite". i'd rather comments like yours letting me know i goofed on something!

oooh, poor you, biting into an inedible, uncooked quince!! that's a rude introduction to this new food, hehe.

glad to hear all went well with the recipe! wouldn't mind seeing the pics of your beauties (if you want, you can email them to me; would love to see the results). rolling them in regular sugar and in walnuts is something i never thought of! they must look great :)) will have to try that next time.

glad you found my blog, decided to keep coming back and finally commented :))

Chennette said...

I love tamarind chutney with our fried stuff in Trinidad. I used to hate it as a child, not liking the sour/sweet flavour, but now I adore it. I also started using the bottled tamarind chutneys as stir fry sauce, adding it to noodles, or tofu. Mmmm. So easy, and lready seasoned and spicy.
They make tamarind juice in Trinidad too, but I can't get over the wanting to taste chutney, and instead it's juice. A St Lucian once told me they make tamarind juice from greener tamarind (I think!) than we do. And although we have the trees in Trinidad, our supersitions centre around the silkcotton tree (don't pass under at midday or midnight, some ritual involving the tree to become a soucouyant etc).

burekaboy — said...

hi chenette! - thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. i've visited yours briefly a few times via sarina. not sure if i left you a comment or not though. :S

i'm addicted to tamarind chutney and usually keep some frozen. to make it with the tamarind pulp is laborious so i make a lot when i do. this way is a very fast "cheat" and gives decent results.

i haven't really cooked with it. i should try it. basically, i end up using it as a condiment. your way sounds great :)

i saw a picture of the silk cotton and it's MASSIVE! didn't know there was superstition about it, though it doesn't surprise me. i also have not heard of this soucouyant but it sounds very haitian french.

btw...i've learned A LOT thru you and sarina the past little while. i had no clue about half the stuff you mention; that's a good thing as it affords me the opportunity to keep learning. so, thanks. :)) hope to see you again, here.

Chennette said...

I don't think we're trying to be deliberately confusing if we mention strange things - you must have figured out we like to explain ;-)

I first tried the chutney in a minced beef and noodles dish. I also use it in tofu and black mushrooms.

I will be visiting your blog again of course, as you do a lot more research and cooking, and presented so well :D

Oh and the soucouyant is an old woman vampire essentially, who leaves her skin every night to travel in a ball of fire to suck blood from her victims. Called Ol' Higue I think in Jamaica.

burekaboy — said...

chenette - LOL, that's enough to scare the pants of any kid! i still wonder though if its origin is haitian. will have to check into that one of these days.

also, had never heard of the fruit representing your moniker. learn somethin' new every day :)) LOL.

Chennette said...

yeah, the chennet/guinep must have been a strange thing to eat - the seed, once you get past the juicy pulp, is round and just the right size to slip down your throat...makes me wonder about the first people who ate them!

and as for the Haitian origins for soucouyant etc, remember the rest of the Caribbean had African slaves, and definitely in Trinidad's case, French colonials. So, the actual origin would have been in African traditions, the names developed from the French language, but simultaneously adn separately in most islands. T&T also has Papa Bois, Mama Glo (Maman de l'eau), Douens; even many of our fruit names are French Creole, common to Dominica, St Lucia and I daresay Haiti etc.

burekaboy — said...

hey chennette - many of the tropical fruit i am learning about are new to me as i'm not a great lover of them. (i wrote a post about it if you want further explanation; some good links re tropical fruit, too). this guinep was a new discovery. :P

thanks for all the info about the etymology of the words. as i speak french, i laughed when i read mama glo, etc. not sure what they all refer to but they are quite amusing, nonetheless. your history is a complex fusion, i must say :) hot and spicy, LOL.