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April 18, 2010

Tamarind (Recipe: grilled tamarind chicken) {gluten-free}

Tamarind chicken

In this part of New England (gardening Zone 5), plants never reach the astronomical proportions they achieve in more tropical climates.

Some plants never make it here at all.

Lemons and limes. Cassava, yucca and coconuts. Tiny bananas, giant bananas, green bananas and plantains that look like bananas, but are not. Mangoes the size of footballs, avocados the size of footballs, and tamarind pods of any size.

Though tamarind pods don't hang from our New England trees, we can buy tamarind in several forms -- concentrate, juice, and blocks of tamarind pulp -- all available for easy picking off the shelf in any Asian or Indian grocery, and in many supermarkets.

Tamarind adds citrus, sweet and salty flavors; if you don't have it, you can substitute pomegranate molasses mixed with lime and a bit of sugar and salt.

What is tamarind?
The pulp of the fruit of the tamarind tree, native to Africa and now cultivated in Asia, Latin America and South America. It's a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and in many candies.

How/where to store:
At room temperature in the cupboard, unopened, indefinitely; after opening, store in the refrigerator, for 6-12 months.

More facts about tamarind, and ingredient photos, on The Perfect Pantry:
Tamarind (Recipe: Pineapple shrimp curry)

Tamarind chicken

Grilled tamarind chicken

Tamarind concentrate, available in all Asian groceries and many supermarkets (and online), makes this dish quick and easy to throw together. If you can't find it, make your own from tamarind pulp, or boil down tamarind juice until it's the thickness of molasses. Or substitute pomegranate molasses and a tablespoon or two of lime juice. This grill recipe can be adapted for the broiler or a very hot oven. If you have time, marinate the chicken overnight; if not, a few hours of marinating will be fine. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

4 oz tamarind concentrate
2 oz boiling water
1/4 cup dry white wine
A few drops of hot pepper sauce (if you like your food on the hot side, add a few more drops)
1 packet artificial sweetener, or 1 tsp honey or agave nectar (optional)
2 tsp kosher salt
10-12 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
4 scallions (whole)
10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the tamarind concentrate in the boiling water. Stir in the wine, hot sauce, sweetener and salt. Fold the parsley and scallions in half and, using kitchen twine, tie them together (to make a bouquet garni). Add that to the mixing bowl. Add the chicken, and toss well to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or transfer all to a ziploc bag), and refrigerate, turning the chicken occasionally, for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

Heat your grill to high. While the grill is heating, remove chicken from the refrigerator. Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and set aside. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Pour the remaining marinade into a small pot, and set heat to high. Boil the marinade for a few minutes until it is slightly thickened.

Place the chicken on the grill, and brush the top with marinade. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken, brush with marinade, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mozambique chicken
Tofu with peanut sauce
Pomegranate fish
Muhammara

Other recipes that use tamarind:
Crab in tamarind and plum sauce, from White on Rice Couple
Pad Thai for beginners, from Chez Pim
Tamarind popcorn, from Mahanandi
Date tamarind chutney, from One Hot Stove
Tamarind soup with chickpeas, chard and spices, from Orangette

Comments

In the Boston Asian markets, I've found fresh tamarind, but it seems sweeter than the other forms you mention. I think I heard a rumor that this may, in fact, be a sweeter variety than the pulp and concentrate, and shouldn't be used for all the recipes you mention. Do you know if this is true?

Great list of recipes! I always have tamarind in the fridge for Pad Thai, but need more recipes. This is great.

Wow that looks really good. Beautiful grill marks. I've never actually heard of tamarind but this looks like a good introduction to it. Any suggestions on accompaniments?

I have never cooked with tamarind. I'm going to have to give it a try.

I love the idea of chicken that's marinated in tamarind and then grilled. I still remember the first time I tasted Tamarind Shrimp Broth at a Vietnamese restaurant (probably circa 1980) and my taste buds said "What is this wonderful flavor." I've been a tamarind lover ever since.

Looks delicious! Do you know how to make the concentrate from the actual fruit?

I've never used tamarind. I cant wait to try it in this recipe!

yum - just printed this recipe and mahummara

I just bought some tamarind concentrate a few weeks ago from an Indian spice store here and wasn't sure what i was going to do with it. thanks so much for this idea!

Lydia, love the colours you got on this chicken and the grill marks...text book!

Julia, are you talking about tamarind pods? They absolutely shouldn't be sweeter than the concentrate. But maybe there is another form of tamarind I haven't seen, so I'd love to know more.

Edwin, believe it or not, this is delicious with traditional potato salad and cole slaw, but when it's served hot, it's usually served with rice or farofa. Couscous would be good, too, maybe with some sauteed onions.

TW, Kathleen: hope this inspires you to give tamarind a try. Remember, it's a fruit, and the taste will be similar to pomegranate.

Kalyn, tamarind shrimp broth sounds divine. I think my first experience of tamarind was in pad Thai.

Geu, yes, but it might not be worth the work it takes to do it! http://www.templeofthai.com/food/pickled_preserved/tamarindpaste-2210481132.php

Mary, this is my new favorite chicken for the grill. Hope you like it.

Joanne, time to get that tamarind out of the pantry!

Peter, my grill did all of the work -- but basting the chicken with the reduced marinade gives it the wonderful lacquered look.

Thanks for the inspiration (and thanks to my imperfect pantry for having enough ingredients to make it today)! My "chicken" was tempeh, cut in thumb shaped pieces, sitting in the marinade most of the day, then steamed about 20 minutes. Loved the taste -- it looked so dense, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it had a rather delicate, bright taste. Ate it with rice, snow pea- asparagus-mushroom/sesame oil/garlic, salad with walnuts. Impressive for a Sunday night.

Very interesting indeed. We use tamarind so commonly, almost 3-4 times a week, but combining it with chicken never ran through my mind. We use it often in cooking sambar (combining dal, tamarind pulp and spices including coconut), combine it with date pulp and spices and use it as a topping in savory snacks like bhel puri, as well as combine it with spices, oil, and peanuts and mix it with rice for a very traditional dish called tamarind rice.
Great post.

Actually, come to think of it, wouldn't this taste similar to bbq chicken ofcourse with a whole different flavor to it.

twice now in the last month I have seen what looks like "blocks" of dried Tamarind. In a little store frequent for great produce deals. I guess I better buy one!
Do I add water to break it up and boil it until thick to create a syrup or concentrate?
than how would I store it? maybe freeze the syrup?

The is gorgeous with a capital G! I do enjoy the tart and sweet taste of tamarind, but don't cook with it often. This recipe will be making its way into our dinner rotation.

This looks absolutely delectable! I love how you have used the tamarind in the marinade here, cant wait to try it!

Susan, I love the idea of adapting the marinade to tempeh. So glad you enjoyed it.

Sri, I have so much to learn about Indian cooking, as your comment reminds me; I've never used tamarind in any of the ways you've mentioned, but I'm going to check your blog for recipes. (And yes, tamarind is a great addition to BBQ sauce!)

Carol, if you search for tamarind using the search box up in the right-hand column, you'll find more information here about how to use the blocks of tamarind.

Cookin' Canuck, the best thing about this chicken is that it tasted even better than it looks.

Radhika, it's definitely not the traditional Indian way of using tamarind, but very common in the part of Brazil we visited.

Looks delicious!

Would you please clarify "very hot oven" as I would like to make it this fall/winter.

IndyGirl, a very hot oven would be 400°F or hotter.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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