Tamarind is a pod-shaped fruit grown on a tropical tree in many parts of the world. The edible flesh is inside a hard shell. According to my own observation, tamarind is more often used in South Indian cooking. It is often cooked with sugar or dates to balance its sour taste. Since I love sour foods, tamarind is my new culinary discovery. In addition to tamarind chutney, I have been putting tamarind in vegetable dishes and my new favorite Indian tomato soup, rasam. In India, tamarind is most often bought in the market wet, hard shell removed, and in bulk. However, I found packaged organic dried tamarind at the grocery store in Calcutta and I was so excited to discover it serves as delicious chew candy!
Tamarind chutney is a popular chutney used to top scrumptious ‘street food,’ including dahi vada. It can be used as a sauce to accompany papaRdum (show in the pic), which you may have had at an Indian restaurant. I also use it in my Indian egg salad, egg chaat (recipe for that coming soon), as well as a topping on almond pancakes.
You can find tamarind at your local Indian food store.
Priya’s tamarind chutney–makes 1.5 cups
Prep ahead tip: Do steps 1 & 2 ahead of time, as these are the most time-consuming.
- Handful of tamarind, about 250g
- 5 dates, seeds removed
- Cooking fat, i.e. coconut oil or ghee
- ¼ t mustard seeds
- ¼ t cumin powder or cumin seeds
- ¼ t coriander powder
- Pinch hing* (optional)
- 6-8 curry leaves
- ¼ t chat masala or garam masala*
- 1/8 t salt
- 1 cup water
- Soak tamarind and dates in ½ cup warm water until soft.
- Using your hands, remove any hard material from the tamarind, including the seeds.
- Blend tamarind and dates. Set aside.
- Heat cooking fat on medium in a deep medium pan.
- Add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add cumin powder or seeds, coriander powder, hing and curry leaves.
- Immediately add the tamarind and date mixture and stir.
- Add the chat masala or garam masala, salt and 1 cup water.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until it gets thick.
*Chat masala and garam masala are particular mixtures of spices you can buy at the Indian food store. You may even find garam masala in the spice section of a good natural food store. Chat masala contains hing, which is most often mixed with wheat flour when sold. I would not use store-bought chat masala or hing unless you do not have a gluten allergy!