08 Oct 2021
Tamarind is one of the region’s most ubiquitous ingredients; learn to prep it the right way for curries, stir-fries, and broths.
What would Malaysian food be without tamarind ? This sweet-sour fruit forms part of the base for so many dishes in the Nusantara and South Asian regions, lending its quiet yet unmistakable tang to our daily meals.
Tamarind, also known as asam jawa, is the ripe fruit of the tamarind tree that grows in many tropical and subtropical countries. On the tree it looks like a giant peanut (as it is a legume) and underneath its crackly shell is the sticky brown flesh that clings to the seeds. Tamarind is not to be confused with asam keping, which are dried slices of the gelugur tree fruit.
For many of us in Malaysia, tamarind arrives in a block, its skin removed and its flesh and seeds compressed into fist-sized slabs. Sometimes the seeds are already removed as well, but in either case, tamarind needs to be prepared before it can be used in cooking. Remember to also taste each batch of tamarind, as even within the same brand or supplier, sweet-sour levels can vary.
Of course, you could skip all of this and buy pre-prepared tamarind paste (Adabi sells a handy version labelled ‘asam jawa xtra’). In the case that you use pre-prepared paste, use half the indicated amount if a recipe calls for tamarind flesh or juice as the pre-prepared stuff is more concentrated. But if you’re like us, you’ll find the process of tamarind preparation soothing and meditative.
Three Periuk recipes that use tamarind:
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