When they need some zing or tang, most Southeast Asian curries turn to the tamarind – either the juice or the flesh itself. While the tamarind (asam jawa in Malay) is fairly ubiquitous in our cuisine, most of us don’t give it too much thought. Given how much we use it, the humble tamarind probably deserves a bit more attention.
Let’s go back to basics. The tamarind tree, the Tamarindus indica, is a hardy tropical species typically found in arid or coastal areas. It’s cultivated from seeds contained in pods, and each sapling can grow into a beautiful tree measuring 8 to 12 metres in height. That pod is actually both a fruit and a legume and has an edible pulp or flesh that is great for use in cooking. You can also eat it as you would any other tropical fruit – right from the tree when it’s ripe and fresh. When it’s ready for consumption, the pod will turn from green to brown. Indian cooking also uses tamarind leaves, but the fruit is what most people are after. The tamarind’s juicy pulp is sour but also has a hint of sweetness. Mature trees tend to produce nearly 180 kilograms of fruit each year, making it a popular alternative to lime or lemon juice. We should also note its health properties. The tamarind is known to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as essential antioxidants. Tamarind may also help diabetes patient because eating the fruit or drinking its juice can cut down blood sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B, magnesium and iron, which is perfect for those suffering from low energy or fatigue. It helps to boost red blood cells and fight anaemia, and research
also points to some benefits for those suffering from malaria.
Know your tamarind
Tamarind comes in several forms in addition to fresh pods, and it’s important to know the difference so that you can buy the type that’s best for your needs. Some manufa