Thursday, August 02, 2007

kitchen essentials — tamarind paste

tamarind is one of those essential ingredients that is found in many different cuisines, from the west indies all the way across to the far east and is used as a souring agent in a variety of dishes, as well as in candies and drinks. it is something i use often and have grown up with. for some, however, this is a new and unexplored ingredient.

the fruit of the tamarind tree grows in pods which look like large over-sized and somewhat flattened peas in a pod. the skin of the pod is a very dark brown and within each pod is the fruit itself, brown and sticky. see my post here for more information about it.

the sticky fruit inside the pod is either compressed into blocks, with or without seeds, or made into a very thick syrup which is sold as the concentrated form. generally, it's best to buy the blocks without the seeds as it makes it easier to process in your kitchen. the concentrated form, while not usually my first choice, is much simpler to use. one just adds it to whatever one is cooking. most people prefer the taste of the block form of tamarind though.

often, making the paste is considered very labour intensive which is why some people like the concentrate. i usually make a lot and freeze it in containers until i need it. it will last for months frozen. so, to make the paste, the only the you need to do is soak the block and strain it carefully. not so hard to do ;) you just have to remember not to make it in a metal bowl — it chemically reacts with it while it soaks, therefore use either glass or plastic.

tamarind paste

making this in larger batches and freezing it for later use in small containers is a time saver. of course, if you don't use it regularly, you're better off just making the called for amount following the instructions below at the time of making your recipe.


dried tamarind block
hot water

for a small batch:

i use a ratio of 1/2 lb (250 g) tamarind to 2.5 c water

and a large batch:

1 lb (500 g) tamarind to 5 c hot water


take your piece of tamarind and place it in your container.

add your hot water and cover the bowl or container and let it sit for at least 2 hours. you can leave it overnight, too.

once it has soaked, take your hand and squish it to break it up or use a wooden spoon.

press the tamarind through a fine sieve over and over again extracting as much liquid as you can.

make sure to keep pressing as much as possible. check the bottom of the sieve and scrape off and add the concentrated paste to the bowl your extracting into.

once it has been extracted, mix it all together and either use in your recipe or freeze for later.

easy as could be!


Nafeesah said...

Wow..that block of tamarind sure is DRY!! I remember having to use that type back in yemen and I had to soak it for the longest. Well in Malaysian cooking we use tamarind quite often but ours comes relatively fresh even though it is it's pretty easy to make up a paste when I need it. I even like to throw it in sometimes without making a paste of it first...Because it's yummy to come across a nice sour piece of tamarind in the dish when it's cooked lol.

burekaboy — said...

nafeesah - it does look pretty dried out, doesn't it? ;) it actually wasn't too bad. the blocks are fairly fresh most of the time (luckily); you just have to buy from places where there's a big turnover.

i can also get the fresh pods here but i don't have the patience to sit there and take them apart and then take out the pulp, etc. and then make the paste. it does taste better, though!

The TriniGourmet said...

i been wanting to make/post tamarind drink but i can't find tamarind anywhere :(

burekaboy — said...

hey TG - huh?! NO tamarind in trinidad?? how is that possible? lol, now you're makin' it look like i lied in my post!! ;)

as for the tamarind drink .... oh oh, i see another double posting coming up!!

The TriniGourmet said...


i need to find tamarind :**( wonder why it hiding :(

burekaboy — said...

TG - LOL, you gonna hafta go climbin' tamarind trees now!! TAKE PICTURES!!! heeeeeeee ;)

Vidya said...

It never crossed my mind to freeze tamarind paste...although I use it everyday in my cooking and would be helpful. I agree that soaking dry tamarind is the way to go, no store-bought tamarind paste for me. It is too dark and goopy, something that real tamarind is not.

I use a stainless steel bowl to soak, never had a problem with any reactions. We never do it in copper, brass, bronze or aluminum vessels. I put a large chunk of tamarind in a small quantity of water in a bowl and place it in the fridge. I sqeeze the tamarind chunk, filter the water through my fingers and directly pour it in my soup/sauce boiling on the stove. Then I pour more water to the tamarind in the bowl and place it back in the fridge. Depending on the dish, I sqeeze out the strength I need. I throw out the tamarind chunk when the water runs clear when I sqeeze it. I'm able to use this for 10 days or so easily. I don't know how long it will stay good in the fridge if not used often.

burekaboy — said...

vidya - i've wondered if it was true or not about the metal (stainless); i have a feeling all the warnings you see are in reference to copper or aluminum as anything acidic will cause a reaction in those. of course, they don't mention that! i haven't tried with stainless but will the next time.

i started freezing the paste a few years back so it wouldn't go bad on me (i'd made a lot). i tend to do things in big batches so it saves me time to not have to repeat processes over and over again (i.e. ginger / garlic / chili / coriander pastes etc.)

thanks for telling me about your method. hadn't thought to do that but then again, i don't use it as much as you [or rather as often]. very interesting!