The Tamarind Tree from which the 6 to 8 inch long bean-like pods grow is believed to be native to Tropical East Africa and thereafter introduced in India, the West Indies and South East Asia. Although the pods are related to the vegetable order they are treated more as a fruit. The name of the fruit originates from the Arabic word Tamar meaning a "dry date fruit" and it was the Arabs in India who gave the name Tamar-Hindi to the tree.
The pods begin adolescent life lean and green and as time progresses they enter adulthood somewhat a little fatter while sporting a mature sandy brown colour. Inside the pod, you will find shiny black seeds covered in sticky dark brown pulp. The pulp is the real treasure and not only is it nutritious and healthy, it is one of the essential ingredients used in hot and sour Thai soup recipes.
What tamarind pulp lacks in aroma, it unquestionably makes up in flawless flavour. When fully developed it has a piquant and sour taste but without the bitterness. It is widely used as a souring agent and can be delightfully fruity and refreshing at times despite having a high tartaric acid content.
It is available in a variety of forms. Compressed blocks and dried slices of the product have been around for quite a while, but it is possible to obtain jars of the fresh produce as well as cartons of concentrate and paste. It's also one of the ingredients in Worcestershire Sauce.
1) It is a good source of antioxidants to help in the fight against cancer
2) It helps reduce fevers and protects against colds and flu
3) It assists in digestion
4) It helps in the treatment of bile disorders
5) It acts as a mild laxative
6) It lowers cholesterol
7) It helps to maintain a healthy heart
8) It helps ease sore throats
9) It helps ease inflammation when applied to the skin
10) It protects against vitamin C deficiency
1) It is a great source of vitamin C and the B vitamins
2) It contains carotene, a strong reddish-orange pigment which is abundant in plants and fruits
3) It contains flavonoids, which are the natural nutrients found in foods of plant origin and play a potentially advantageous role in the prevention and treatment of disease thus necessary to sustain human life.
Compressed Tamarind looks remarkably similar to a packet of dried dates and comes in solid block form. In preparation for that extra special Thai recipe you have always wanted to fashion, simply tear off a small piece enough to enhance the flavour of the dish. Soak the piece in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. The seeds will eventually be released from the pulp.
Use a strainer and strain the juice into a bowl, then discard the contents of the strainer and use the liquid as required. If for any reason you made too much, store the rest in the refrigerator and use later for another recipe.
The dried variety resembles a little like that of dried apple slices only a lot darker. For cooking purposes place a few pieces into a bowl, then pour hot water over them and leave to soak for about 30 minutes or so to extract the flavour. Squeeze the slices with your fingers, then strain the juice.
If using the concentrate or paste version, mix one tablespoon with half a cup of warm water and stir until dissolved then use as and when required.
For storage purposes, you can keep both the dried slices and compressed variations in any cool, dry place, but any jars containing fresh, concentrate or paste must be kept in the refrigerator once they have been opened.
Kaffir Lime and Leaves is a sub-species of the citrus family, has a strong fragrance and flavour and is highly prized in Thai cuisine.
Curry Leaves are excellent as an herbal tonic and is similar in style to bay leaves, but with a hint of green pepper and has a tangerine fragrance.
Thai Basil is also known as Oriental Basil or Asian Basil in Thailand and is a close cousin of the sweet basil variation that's frequently used in Thai cuisine.
Cilantro is an edible herb known as Pak Chee in Thailand, but in other countries, it's known as coriander. It's also sometimes known as Chinese Parsley
Lemongrass is a wonderfully aromatic herb with a distinct lemony flavour but more than that, it also provides a whole host of herbal and therapeutic benefits.
Galangal is popularly known as Krachai in Thailand and is considered to be more of a spice than a herb. It has a strong and sharp peppery flavour.
Thai Long Pepper is a tangy spice known as Dee Plee to the local Hmong Hill Tribe people of northern Thailand. It's also referred to as Piper Chaba.
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