From sweet sauces to traditional drinks and even tangy desserts, you will find tamarind in a variety of dishes. Tamarindus Indica, more commonly known as tamarind, is a staple in most Mexican, Mediterranean, and Indian dishes.
What is Tamarind?
Unlike other herbs or spices that are used in the culinary world to add a burst of flavor, tamarind is actually a fruit. It is found inside brown seed pods that grow on trees.
Tamarind is extracted from the seed pods and then packaged; whole tamarind pods are also available in some areas. Known for its tangy taste, tamarind can often taste sweet based on where it’s grown and how old it is.
Where is it Found?
Tamarind grows well in humid, warm areas where the soil has little to no salinity. Native to Africa, the tree also grows in other regions including Pakistan and India.
Unlike most cultivated fruits, tamarind is known to grow like ‘wild trees’, without needing special farms. Tamarind was introduced to India as a culinary ingredient by Arab traders before reaching other Asian countries where it is now quite popular.
As previously mentioned, tamarind is a staple ingredient in the culinary world, specifically in Asian countries such as India, where it is commonly used to add a zest of tangy flavor. Tamarind is often used in combination with other herbs and spices to make special sauces and curries.
A few ways in which tamarind is incorporated into cuisines all around the world include:
- In India, tamarind is often heated and turned into a thin and runny liquid called a chutney. You will hear this name quite a lot in India and Pakistan where it is consumed alongside other dishes such as barbeque.
- Tamarind sauce is included as a base ingredient in one of Thailand’s most famous dishes: Pad Thai. It is whisked with fish sauce and vinegar to add a sweet yet subtly sour taste.
- Tamarind trees have existed on the Caribbean Islands for centuries. In this region, tamarind is used not for its savory flavor but more often as a dessert. Tamarind balls are a popular cuisine of the Caribbean Islands, in which sugar is added to tone down its sourness, leaving it with a sweet and subtle tangy taste.