Tamarind

I was addicted to this growing up. It went on everything. I would soak white bread with it and let it melt in my mouth.

Tamarind is a new ingredient for me. I’ve been experimenting with baked beans and many recipes say to add Worcestershire sauce, which I don’t have. I could buy it, sure, but I wanted to approximate it, less the fermented fish. Wikipedia gives this ingredient list for Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce:

Barley malt vinegar
Spirit vinegar
Molasses
Sugar
Salt
Anchovies
Tamarind extract
Onions
Garlic
Spice
Flavourings

The “flavourings” are believed to include soy sauce, lemons, pickles and peppers.

Tamarind was the only ingredient I couldn’t replicate somehow. And I’m totally unfamiliar with it. Wikipedia says tamarind is a leguminous tree, indigenous to tropical Africa. It produces a pod-like fruit. Here’s the tree with its pods. They do look like beans, don’t they.

Here’s the fleshy interior of a pod. I can now tell you it tastes nothing like it looks … it’s sweet, sour, and citrusy. Nothing like the beans or legumes I’m used to.

Source: The Latin Kitchen, which also gives instructions on how to prepare it. Very useful.

The only tamarind I could find was in a small jar mixed with sugar, vinegar, and preservatives. One was $5, one was $8. But then I saw this, a block of semi-soft tamarind pulp. The real deal, for $1.99:

Following The Latin Kitchen’s advice, I soaked a chunk of it in water overnight, squeezed the pulp through a strainer, and added it to my baked beans, along with most of the other Worcestershire sauce ingredients.

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