Tamarind is a tart tropical fruit that brings an appealing pucker to marinades, sauces, stir-fries, chutneys, curries, beverages and sorbets.
You may not realize that you’ve eaten tamarind, but it’s a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. Also known as Indian date, it has large, plump, dark brown pods filled with a sticky, stringy, seedy pulp. With its astringent sweet-tart taste, a little goes a long way.
The tamarind pods displayed in Miami supermarkets produce bins aren’t very tempting. The large, dry, bean-shaped pods are usually broken up, with some of the brittle tan shell missing to expose the sticky dark brown fruit and its long fibers.
Choose smooth, soft-looking pods and store at room temperature in a dry spot. They are actually quite easy to deal with. Just peel them with your fingers and remove the sturdy fibers that enclose the seed. Soak the fruit in warm water for about 20 minutes and then push the softened tamarind through a sieve to get the thick pulp. Use it straight or mixed with the soaking liquid. The pulp stores well in the refrigerator or freezer.
Tamarind comes in more convenient forms, too. Blocks of frozen tamarind pulp are available in most supermarkets. I just cut off the amount I want for a recipe and put the rest back in the freezer.
Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.”