Ok. Ok. Ok ok ok ok ok.
So. Tamarind is like the best thing ever.
I first had it in Singapore on my first summer tour with the Cats. It was at the end of a month traveling throughout East and Southeast Asia, and my homestay always had heaps of tropical fruit lying around their amazing, open-air gallery/home (they had two-story high sliding doors for walls). So in addition to eating lychee and long-an first thing in the morning, lounging around in the afternoon with a mangosteen in hand, and sampling other fruits I never even knew existed, I was introduced to the zingy, prehistorically evocative fruit-pod complex: the tamarind.
Or, as they say in México: EL TAMARINDOOOOOO.
Well, maybe that’s not everyone, but it is me at the grocery store upon finding big bags of them, reading their bold label aloud to myself/the world with a sort of indulgent glee whose volume and sheer maniacality almost certainly left an impression on some people. What sort of impression it was we’ll leave to the imagination. Yes.
But surely you understand my enthusiasm! I had not seen whole tamarind in like two.5 years, let alone tasted their sweet sour fleshy pasty lingering unctuousness. So verily was I hankering to get that inimitable pod-fruit onto my palate and, less my primary objective and more a logical result thereof, into my belly.
My mother was less gung-ho. Which was fine. Understandable. (Little did she know I snuck it into dinner a couple nights later).
Figure 1. A smooth brown shell. While all tamarinds are of a single species, there seem to be two main varieties: those of Asia featuring longer (and in my experience plumper) pods of six to twelve seeds, while those of Africa and Central America with shorter, flatter pods of one to six seeds. The Asian variety I had in Singapore were somewhat sweeter and less sour as well. But that is not to say el tamarindo is any less worthwhile or delicious – in fact, the sourness sort of makes it. It tastes almost like an orange, but more sour. Which makes sense because of how much vitamin C is in these unassuming brown pods.
Figure 2. The shell is easily crackable, revealing a hollow cavity and a brown, pliant flesh, almost like dates. Incidentally, the name ‘tamarind’ comes from the Persian tamar hind, meaning ‘Indian date’. Even though it originated in Africa. But Persia wouldn’t have known that.
Figure 3. The skin/shell is easily stripped away, as are the three or so fibrous veins that run along the outside of the flesh, attaching it to the shell at one end of the pod (the stem end). Notice the bumps along the flesh.
Figure 4. The flesh may be cut open lengthwise to reveal each seed. They are rather flat and glossy brown – they almost look like some sort of bean. Don’t try eating them. They are hard. You can excise them if you’re in a finicky mood, or pop the whole flesh into your mouth and suck on it, loosening the flesh, and the seeds will eventually fall out on their own.
Obviously, it was not enough to eat just tamarind. Oh no. We needed to make canapés out of them. Because that is how we do things here at hearthstrung, isn’t that right.
Tostada, guacamole (freshly made of course, for this very occasion), alfalfa and amaranth sprouts, and (the crowning glory) EL TAMARINDO. The golden orb of palate-busting lip-smackability.
(Because that top-down shot is just so hard to resist)
Ahh! A tangled jungle of sprouty goodness! Though while they sit their cushily in their delicious wholesome freshness, little do they know they are playing second fiddle to a far more fearsome beast.