Tamarind (Recipe: grilled 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)
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.
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
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.
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