Tamarind for a sweet-sour taste

We in the subcontinent are no strangers to tamarind.

Starting right from childhood, when we pluck the brown pods fresh from the trees and pop them in for a sharp tangy taste, to all of youth when every snack is necessarily accompanied by the red imli-tomato chutney, tamarind stays with us through our lives.

Also, let’s not forget the mandatory pregnancy scenes from our Bollywood movies where all that the heroine desires is to have tamarind, all the time!

This savoury fruit finds favour at every juncture of life, every era and in each part of the country.

Tamarind has the quality of imparting an irresistible lip-smacking taste to any dish it is added to.

The taste can be made overpowering or subtle simply by controlling the amount of tamarind water added to the dish.

Chefs all over the world have experimented with this fruit, making it an important ingredient in drinks, soups, lentil curries, vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and even desserts.

Let’s not forget the beautiful red colour that it lends to dishes that patronise it.
Chef Dheeraj Mangothra of Cafe Blue Tomato says, “Tamarind is a wonderful condiment to work with, and the same is proved by different preparations, across India, that make use of it.

First and foremost is the ubiquitous imli chutney. Made simply by boiling and straining imli with a good amount of jaggery, this sauce finds place of pride on every dining table.

What would our samosas, golgappas, chaat, tikki, dhoklas and bhelpuris do without it?

"In Punjab, a preparation called chane ki dal aur mani makes use of tamarind. The mani is a tamarind water concoction that is had with rice. It is especially served at weddings. In southern India, on the other hand, tamarind is freely used in lentil soups such as sambar. Tamarind water, in fact, forms the base of sambar giving it a sweet-sour taste.

In Mumbai, chef Dheeraj informs us, pine nut and tamarind paste chutney is a big hit.

“All that one has to do is roast some pine nuts and then grind it in a mixer with some imli paani, green chillis, tomatoes, coriander, salt, chaat masala and sesame oil. It’s a very tasty preparation that goes with roti and rice,” says the chef.

Bengal, the land of ilish (hilsa) maach, also makes use of tamarind. Examples in point being tetul ilish (tamarind hilsa) and tetul chingri (tamarind prawns).

Tamarind water and jaggery added to hilsa curry gives it a mouthwatering sweet-sour taste. Some sweets like Anjeer ki barfi also make use of tamarind.

There are few natural condiments as versatile as tamarind!

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