Guest post and photos by Peter in Brazil, chef and co-owner of Pousada do Capão
We lunched at Al Arabe Lebanese Restaurant last week during our routine weekly shopping junket to Diamantina. A cold, tall glass of tart tamarind juice, over ice and lightly sweetened with brown sugar, was just what I needed to take the edge off the noonday heat. And it was the perfect accompaniment to a plate of Ahmed’s meat kibbeh and delicious fatoosh salad.
As we returned to the center of town to finish up a few errands before heading home to São Gonçalo, I couldn’t resist buying some tamarind pods from a street vendor, whose wheelbarrow was brimming with not only tamarind, but also mangoes, okra, araticum, pequi, and other delicacies of the cerrado.
Usually I write about my pantry items that are native to Brazil and were globalized with the help of the Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Tamarind, on the other hand, is native to Africa and subsequently was naturalized all over the tropical world by colonizers and traders.
Its uses run the gamut from dyestuff to laxative to cattle fodder to furniture-making, but today I'll stick to its culinary appeal.