Tamarind Paste – you’ve maybe heard of it but do you actually know what it is? Y’know like what it tastes like? Where it comes from? And what it’s used for? Well, this blog answers those exact questions. That’s right, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tamarind paste.
What is Tamarind?
Before the paste, comes the Tamarind, which is a leguminous tree that bears edible fruits. It is indigenous to tropical Africa. The genus Tamarindus is monotypic, meaning that it contains only this species. The tree bears large brown pods that contain the tamarind fruit. (Yes just like peppers, tamarinds are fruits)
What is Tamarind Paste?
Tamarind paste is made from the sour, dark, sticky fruit—or pods—of the tamarind tree. Due to its naturally thick, fibrous consistency, the tamarind fruit is the perfect ingredient to make a paste. The paste generally comes either from a slab of the tamarind fruit or from the pods (which you can see above). After being removed from the pod, the pulp is pulled away from the seeds. Then, the raw fruit is steeped in hot water for thirty minutes before being drained through a sieve to remove and extra fibrous threads or seeds.
Where does it come from?
The tamarind tree is a common hardwood fruit tree that is native to Africa but now grows all over both Mexico and Asia. You can make it yourself or buy it premade, but it’s not expensive, and it keeps for an extensive amount of time.
Health Benefits of Tamarind
Some may hesitate to eat tamarinds because of its high sugar content, and yet, the fruit is packed per gram with calcium, iron, thiamin, magnesium, potassium and fiber. In fact, the United States imports tens of thousands of kilos of tamarinds for medical studies and for pharmaceutical applications.
Scientific studies show promising findings regarding tamarinds:
- A 2012 study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines, found that tamarinds illustrated anti-obesity effects by improving lipid profiles and boosting antioxidant efficiency in obese rats.
- A 2012 study published in Scientia Pharmaceutica affirms the leaves’ traditional use as an anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive.
- A study published by Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences found that tamarind seeds show strong anti-ulcer activities by regulating gastric juices and reducing the total acidity in gastric secretions.
- A study from in the Scientific World Journal conducted in 2012 demonstrated that the tamarind seeds can act as an anticancer agent by reducing human cancer cells and tumor sizes.
- A 2006 report published by the Southampton Centre for Underutilized Crops found that tamarind fruit extracts exhibited antifungal activities against Candida albicans. It also cited a study indicating the seed’s potent efficacy as an antidiabetic when tested in rats.
- A study published by the Journal of Hazardous Materials in 2012 showed a promising use for tamarind shells, which have calcium-rich compounds that can actually assist with fluoride removal in ground water.
- Lastly, a study published in the Asian Journal of Biochemistry in 2008 found that tamarind pulp showed strong antibacterial properties, thus confirming its various uses in traditional remedies.
What does Tamarind Paste Taste Like?
Tamarind paste has quite a complex flavor profile. Firstly, it is very sour, with a somewhat citrusy taste. More subtly, you may also detect hints of smokiness and even caramel as well. In terms of texture, it is sticky, thick, and resembles molasses.
Where to Buy Tamarind Paste
Generally, you can find tamarind in the pod wherever you buy Southeast Asian, Indian, or Latin American ingredients.
You can usually find tamarind in a jar or plastic container. Since the paste is strong and condensed, one jar will last a long time. Most Asian food stores sell Tamarind, but you might also be able to find it in Indian grocers. For those without access, it can also be purchased online easily.
How to Use It
While tamarind paste is often perfect for desserts and even candy, in Thai cooking uses it for some of their most savory dishes. For example, the traditional pad thai sauce uses tamarind, as are some Thai curries and seafood dishes. Indian curries also uses quite a bit of tamarind. It is also a common ingredient in Indian and Mexican cuisines, as well as Vietnamese, Caribbean, and Latin cooking. Most notably in the United States, it is a primary ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, which gives it its distinctive tang.
How to Make Your Own Tamarind Paste
If you’d like to make your own, go for it – it’s relatively easy. First buy the dried pods, usually in Asian stores and even some supermarkets. Next, open them up and take out the fruit. Simmer the fruits with roughly 1/4 cup of water for about 10 minutes. Then take out the pan from the heat, and use the back of a spoon to gently mash the fruit against the bottom and sides of the pan. Strain the brown liquid out, and press the fruit through a fine-mesh sieve to extract as much pulp as possible, while straining out the seeds. Your tamarind paste is now ready to use.
Want to Try Tamarind Paste in a Hot Sauce?
Look no further. The tangy tamarind finish in The Texas Hot Sauce balances out the habanero heat perfectly.