Thursday, 4 June 2009


The TAMARIND (Tamarindus indica) (from the Arabic word ‘tamar hindi’) is a tree in the family Fabaceae. The genus is monotypic; in other words, it only has a single species.

It is a tropical tree, native to Africa. However, as it was introduced into India so long ago, it has often been reported as indigenous to the sub continent. It was apparently from India that it reached the Persians and the Arabs, who called it "tamar hindi" (or Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names.

In Indonesian, it is called asem (or asam) Jawa . In Malaysia it is called asam (the Malay word for sour and tamarind). In the Philippines it is called sampaloc in Tagalog and in Hindi it is called imli.

The fruit pulp is edible. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very sour and acidic and is often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is less sour and somewhat sweeter. It is used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack.

In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit. It is also sometimes eaten preserved in sugar (and with chilli) as a candy.

TAMARIND is used in both Asian and Latin American cuisines. It is an important ingredient in Imli Chutney, a spicy North Indian condiment; Worcestershire sauce; HP sauce; and the Jamaican-produced Pickapeppa sauce.

TAMARIND is used extensively in south Indian cooking where it is used to prepare Rasam and Sambhar. In Egypt, there is an acidic chilled drink called "tamr hindi", which is made from tamarind.

Pad Thai, a Thai dish often includes TAMARIND for its tart/sweet taste (with lime juice added for sourness and fish sauce added for saltiness). In Singapore and Malaysia it is used to add a sweet-sour taste to gravy for fish in a dish called asam fish and asam laksa.

Malaysians also use TAMARIND slices (commonly called "asam keping" or "asam gelugor", for added sourness to dishes such as seafood curries.

When used in cooking, the TAMARIND pulp is usually used. It is mixed with some warm water and the juice is extracted and added to the cooking. Concentrated tamarind juice is now sold commercially and can be purchased instead of the pulp. However, my preference is still the TAMARIND pulp.


hazila said...

Hi Vin,
My late MIL planted this tamarind at her backyard. She used to give me homemade tamarind pulp.

VG said...

Hazila, I wish I could grow it too in my backyard but it is too cold here. I bet the homemade asam jawa is so much better.