Friday, July 12, 2013

Tamarind - looks like poo, tastes delicious!

Careful now, you might actually learn something if you read the following but don't worry, I promise to add some mind numbing commentary that I probably think is hilarious and makes you think I'm just plain weird. 

As I've mentioned before, one of the greatest things about living in the Philippines is direct access to all of the exotic fruits and vegetables.  With a market right outside our building every Saturday, I literally have no excuse not to try everything.  Now, admittedly, I did not acquire this particular batch of fruit at a market and this is technically my second box (it's THAT good) but I haven't had Internet for a week....so sue me.  

TAMARIND is a pod-like fruit that grows on a tree native to tropical Africa.  The name "tamarind" comes from tamar hindi or "Indian date" which is fitting since the tamarind tastes a bit like a sweet and sour date. 

Full grown Tamarind tree:

Photo Attribution
And here are the pods still attached to the tree: 

Photo Attribution

Now you are starting to understand the poo reference, no?


Most of us have had tamarind without even knowing it....ever eat Worcestershire sauce?  Tamarind is one of the main ingredients.  Who knew?!  It's also used in all kinds of seasonings (especially in Southeast Asia), chutneys, curries, etc.  In the Yin/Yang philosophy that is applied to many Asian dishes, the tamarind would be considered a "Yin" food because of its slightly acidic yet cooling qualities. 

Though it has some of the highest sugar content of any fruit, it also has some pretty substantial health benefits.  It's high(ish) in dietary fiber and has a significant amount of tartaric acid - which is apparently a very powerful antioxidant (and no, I didn't know any of this prior to 5 minutes ago, wikipedia, and a google search).  Tamarind is also a good source of iron, calcium, and thiamine.  It is used as a mild laxative, a digestive and as a remedy for bile disorders (ew!). 

If you like dates, I think you'll like the tamarind.  You kinda never know what you're going to get until you crack open the shell.  Sometimes, they are very sweet (more mature) and sometimes, super sour (younguns).  If they're dry, don't eat them.  Also, if they're covered in dead maggots (don't ask), I might shy away.  I like them in the shell because eating them is more like an activity.  If you're a fan of peanuts in the shell or peel and eat shrimp, you know what I mean.  Eating a tamarind isn't just good because they taste great but it's entertaining too. 

Having said ALL that, you must get over the appearance of the tamarind to enjoy the fruits (pun, as usual, fully intended) of your labor.  

You can see what I mean: 



 


Look at that!  Even with special lighting and all of the photo fixes Picasa could muster it still looks like Mr. Hanky the Christmas poo. 

The similarities are uncanny.  And btw, anyone else bothered yet slightly excited that there is a Mr. Hankey bobble head??

Sadly, I think tamarind is pretty hard to find in the States so you may be out of luck.  Then again, given above Christmas Poo reference, you might not be in the market for tamarind....like....ever. 

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