Monday, March 29, 2010

Kitchen Essentials: Tamarind (Imli/Puli/Amsan) Paste

There are some items, I just HAVE to have in my kitchen. Tamarind Paste/Pulp is one of them. Mum extracts fresh paste (from a tsp or so of tamarind) each time she cooks. But for me it makes more sense to pulp an entire ball (2-3kilos) and store it in the fridge.

My tamarind has always come from grandma's kitchen garden. At the right time of the year, tamarind pods are taken off the trees, the flesh is seperated from the pods and seeds and the flesh is then rolled into tight balls which dehydrate and become tighter as the days pass.

Grandma rolled some of the tamarind in salt, so it would keep longer. These balls were then distributed to her children and grandchildren when requested.

I prefer making my tamarind pulp from this to using store bought paste for the obvious reasons - purity & avoiding preservatives.

Its better to do this on a day when you have a few hours free to keep going back to your tamarind.
I prefer to pulp the whole ball at once, because it speeds up my cooking process.(I forgot to take a picture of the ball before starting. But its normally the size of  a cantaloupe.)

Place the ball of tamarind in a bowl (preferably non-metal), heat water in another bowl (if using tap water, boil thoroughly to kill as many micro organisms as possible and then cool)

Pour the hot water over the ball of tamarind to half its height. Let it soak for awhile. Then with a spoon try to disintegrate the ball. The more surface that is touched by water, the faster the process will go.

You may have to check on it multiple times to get the ball to completely split up. Add more water if you feel that it is getting too thick. When you have a reasonably thick pulp, strain the mixture through a seive. Bottle the strained pulp.

There will still be a lot of flesh attached to fibres. Put all this back in the original vessel and pour some more hot water on it. Repeat seive and water process till you feel you have extracted as much as you can from the tamarind.

The pulp should be the consistency of chocolate sauce or thicker as you can see above. If it is too thin, it could ruin the consistency of the dishes you add it to (ok, for curries, but not stir fries) And what is to be discarded will be completely dry.

If your last extract is very thin, then use that to make rasam or keep aside to use in a curry. Don't dilute the whole batch.

Bottle in a glass jar with a glass or plastic top (tamarind will react with anything metallic) preferably vaccum packed, especially if you have more than one bottle.

I keep this paste for 6months to 1 year in the fridge without any trouble and use as needed. If your tamarind ball doesn't have any added salt, you can add some to help lengthen the life of the Paste/Pulp.

The dry roughage/ waste of the tamarind is extremely good for polishing brass and copper items.

This is why I normally keep aside a whole day for making tamarind paste as I normally follow it up with a polishing session. Its as good or better than any store bought polish (+its natural +gentle on your skin +no breathing in harmful chemicals.)

Here is a Before after Picture :)
It needs just a little elbow grease.

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